Thursday, 3 June 2021
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to have a plan for the nation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
Imagine if Neil Armstrong had gone all the way to the moon but had never got out of the ship—had never taken that small step, let alone the great leap for mankind—and said: 'It's okay; we're comfortable here. We've arrived at our destination. The eagle has landed.' That is what this government is like. They've achieved government, and they think that is the end in itself. They've no vision for the nation and no capacity to use the power of government to make a difference to people's lives. It's just: 'End of story. Job done! We're in government. Let's just applaud us.'
After three terms in office, they have no legacy there to be proud of. And that's why, in question time, day after day, they just bag the Labor Party. That's why they're unprepared to debate their own record on any issue and why they shut down debate. A minister who's on the front page of the paper today speaking about freedom of speech comes into parliament and shuts down debate all day.
The fact is that this coalition government will be remembered just as the Fraser government is: what was the point? They changed some things back—the Fraser government got rid of Medibank—but what was the point of them after eight years? Well, the government have been in office for eight years, just occupying the space.
Labor is different. We seek the power of government to improve people's lives; to make a difference; to build a stronger economy; to imagine and then create a better and a fairer society; to spread opportunity; to invest in new industries, such as through our national reconstruction fund. We're not satisfied to say, 'We want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic.' We want to build back stronger. As I indicated to those at Minerals Week this week: we don't want to just export our resources; we want to value-add and manufacture things here, creating jobs and value here.
Those opposite have a view that you just export resources, things get made somewhere else and then we import them back at greater cost. We don't benefit from the innovation and ingenuity that Australian scientists have brought to so many of the world's innovations.
We, on this side, want to champion equality for women. We want to add universal, affordable child care to Labor's great legacies of universal health care and universal superannuation. We want to fix aged care. We want to emerge as a renewable energy superpower. We'd use government to improve people's lives.
Those opposite just want to be in government for its own sake—to stop us. They're defined by what they're against—and defined, as we saw today, by never accepting responsibility. This government had two big jobs this year: to roll out the vaccine and to fix national quarantine, and they have failed on both. And there are major consequences for it.
The Prime Minister, rather extraordinarily, today began his press conference by saying: 'We don't fear the virus.' Well, tell that to people with loved ones in aged care. Tell that to people with loved ones in disability care. He says that people shouldn't fear COVID. Well, I'll tell you what people fear. People fear this government's complacency; they fear this government's hubris, because there are real consequences behind this government's arrogance and its complacency. On repeated occasions, this Prime Minister has said has said the rollout is not a race. He was good at rolling out the red carpet for himself, but the vaccine rollout has been an absolute debacle. This is a government that's been all about the spin and the imagery, never about the substance and the delivery.
They do, unlike previous prime ministers and Defence ministers, get Defence to roll out the red carpet when the Prime Minister's arriving. They crank out the Top Gun soundtrack when he sits in the cockpit, but, of course, the plane doesn't go anywhere. It's all just about the still—the image—not about actually doing the deal.
Today we saw it again: no responsibility. We have a health minister who, essentially, signalled: 'Wait for the next vaccine. Don't worry. Another one's coming if you don't like this one.' And they wonder why the vaccine rollout numbers have been so bad. We're not in the top 100 of countries, and this government said that we were at the front of the queue. We could have been. If we were prepared to do deals with companies producing mRNA vaccines, we could have not only had them; we could have been making them here. But, again, they were so complacent—too busy patting themselves on the back to worry about delivery.
Then, today, to top it all off—I think this was the highlight of Question Time today—was Stuey. He actually said that they were the best in the world with the COVIDSafe app. This COVIDSafe app which has been an absolute debacle in its rollout.
An opposition member: $70 million.
$70 million, and does anyone know anyone who's used this COVIDSafe app? We have systems throughout the country, because state governments had to step up to fill the void that was left by federal government failure. But, remember, they did run a public info campaign for it. They haven't run one that's effective for the vaccine, they haven't run one that's effective or done anything serious about national quarantine, but they did run one for the app. So, to them, the success of the app is that it's on a phone. Not that it's used, not that it's traced anyone and not that it's been of any effect. That says it all about this government.
This is a government that used to have targets. Everyone in category 1a would be fixed—in aged care and disability care—by Easter. We know that hasn't been delivered, even now. They were going to have 4 million people vaccinated fully by the end of March. They missed that by 3.4 million. Perhaps it's no accident that the day after March is 1 April. They said there'd be 13 pop-up clinics for aged-care workers by May. There are only three, even now, and they're all in Sydney. What was their solution? They abandoned having any targets. Now no-one knows when the vaccination of Australians will be finished, because they've given up setting a target.
This is a government that is defined by inaction until there's an absolute crisis. We saw it today when—finally, belatedly—they announced some assistance for Victoria. We saw it when it comes to vaccination. We've seen it when it comes to a national quarantine system. We saw it with wage subsidies, which they only brought in when the queues lapped around the blocks of Centrelink offices. We saw it when it came to bushfires, when he said, 'I don't hold a hose, mate.' We saw it when it came to women's issues, where a reported sexual assault didn't even result in any action from this government; it took the March4Justice to jolt them out of their complacency. They're not even responsible for their own office. The Prime Minister has had two inquiries into what his office knew. Why doesn't he just ask them and then tell the Australian people?
This is a Prime Minister who won't even accept responsibility for his own words. He does 180-degree turns and hopes his audience are like goldfish and just don't remember. His only concept of a race is the speed in which he runs from his responsibilities. It's not good enough, and Australia deserves better.
I can only imagine how disheartening it must be to be in opposition, to never be able to see the positive in anything. We're talking about the plan that the government has had for Australia. When we've talked about almost anything today, I've wanted to take us back to last February-March, because that's when the world changed. The world literally changed last February-March. The world was hit by a global pandemic. So, what have we done as a government since then in terms of a plan for Australia? We had a plan that covered two very distinct issues. We had a plan to keep Australians safe. You would think, if you listened to the opposition, that we are in dire straits with the pandemic as far as the health and safety of Australians are concerned. Well, that isn't the case. You would also believe, if you listened solely to the opposition, that we have great economic problems combined with the pandemic. That again is not the case.
I want to take you back to last February-March when the global pandemic was declared. I want to take you back to when we, as a government, formed a national cabinet with the state premiers and the territory leaders about how we were going to combat this and what we needed to do, as both state and federal governments, to keep Australians safe and to keep their job security as solid as we could. What happened? The Treasury back then, way back at the start of this, said that their projections were for a 15 per cent unemployment rate, for two million extra Australians to be unemployed and for our economy to contract by 20 per cent. They were the Treasury's projections if we, as a government and state governments together, didn't do anything. So, we had a plan. We implemented a plan. We also—
Ms Murphy interjecting—
I'll take the interjection. It was a very cunning plan and it's worked! It was a great plan!
Ms Murphy interjecting—
Humorous! I'm glad that the member opposite thinks that it's funny that we've done so well. That's great! The projections of the Treasury were that there'd be two million extra unemployed, that the economy would contract by 20 per cent and that there would be a 15 per cent unemployment rate. Together we had a plan to resolve that, and we did—and I'm glad the member opposite is so amused by that.
We had a mantra as well at the time that it was very important that we—as did every country—had to flatten the curve. Remember that? We had to flatten the curve. That was the pre-eminent thing that the people of every nation wanted. Well, we did. We did flatten the curve. We did better than most countries in flattening the curve. In fact, this virus is still sweeping the globe, through developing nations and other countries, which are having third and fourth waves. We can't ever eliminate a virus. We still have the odd outbreak, which obviously is unfortunate, but comparatively as a country we have done very well. As a comparison, if our health stats had been a lot like other countries, 30,000 additional Australians would have passed away. So, we have done exceptionally well.
Unfortunately you hear nothing positive from the opposition. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that no-one over there is ever in a happy place on anything. While Labor MPs may not be able to say anything positive, I have Labor voters in my electorate who compliment us and say: 'We might not vote for you, Kevin. We might not think that you're our first port of call when we go to vote, but we think you and the government have done a great job.' I hear that from Labor voters. You never hear anything like that from anyone opposite, but you certainly hear it from Labor voters and people out in the community.
Because we have done so well to date—and that hasn't stopped—on the health front, economically we are absolutely blitzing it. We are absolutely doing exceptionally well. We are the Ferrari on the track as far as the economics of the world go. So, rather than have 15 per cent unemployment, the unemployment rate peaked at 7½ per cent. It's 5½ per cent now and forecast to go below five per cent. Isn't that exciting? I see the smiles opposite, joyous about the fact that unemployment rates are falling. Join in the celebration of that, members opposite! Join in the—
Deputy Speaker, crack a smile about that. The fact that the unemployment rate has fallen from 7½ per cent to 5.5 per cent and is going to fall to below five per cent by the Treasury projections is great news.
Also, there are the national accounts throughout this week. The Australian economy is the first economy out of any G7 nation to be bigger than what it was pre-pandemic. Our economy is now bigger than what it was before the pandemic broke out and everyone went into a COVID led recession. We have more jobs in our economy than what we had pre-pandemic before the global recession hit. We are up by 0.8 per cent, so our economy is 0.8 per cent bigger. Here are some relative international statistics: the US is down by 0.9 per cent, Canada is down by 1.7 per cent, Japan down by 2.3 per cent, France is down by 4.7 per cent, Germany is down by five per cent, Italy is down by 6.4 per cent and the UK is down by 8.7 per cent. The whole of Australia celebrates that except for those opposite. They don't talk about it and they don't mention it, because nothing of a celebration or good news can come out of their mouths.
Because the economy's doing so well, we've also seen business confidence and consumer confidence up. Why have we done really well economically? One of the reasons—and God bless the Australian people in adhering to social hygiene, social distancing and all the health restrictions that were put on them—is that we as a government know that eight out of ten jobs are in the private sector, so we needed and we wanted the private sector to do well and to get to the other side of this pandemic as best it could. JobKeeper has been very well documented. JobKeeper was a very important economic stimulus that took us through a whole 12-month period when businesses had to close down or were restricted in what they did. That was a very important part of it. It kept the relationship between an employee and employer together and obviously when the economy took off again that relationship was still there. We're providing tax relief to over 10 million Australians. A tax cut is the same as a wage increase, so, effectively, the Australian people have had a wage increase.
Someone from our side of politics would mention this every day this chamber sits, and that's the instant tax write-off. I know the Deputy Prime Minister spoke about it in question time today. This is that scheme where businesses are investing in capital in their business—if you're a cafe, you go out and invest in a new freezer, and, if you're a tradie, you go out and buy a new ute. We've extended it to big business and some of the big capital programs that they have. You could instantly write that off. Anecdotally, if any of us walk around the small-business communities in our own regions, you would not have a small business who doesn't mention that one to you and know the importance of that. We had the carry-loss-forward provisions as well, which were really important to improving both small and large businesses' cash flows. Cash flow is exceptionally important through this period, which is why our unemployment rate has fallen and why we economically are doing very well.
We also have on the other side of the ledger realised, besides JobKeeper, the importance of government spending in a whole array of areas. In the budget we saw some really big commitments to some really important areas of our economy, which is the plan that we have and the plan that is working. There was the increased commitment to aged care. We saw in the royal commission that there were some vacuums in our aged-care system that needed to be filled and some shortcomings that we needed to help them fix. The investment in that is there. We talked about, as well, the $110 billion dollar infrastructure project that we have planned over the next 10 years—really important on a whole array of fronts. If I had time I would go through a whole array of them in just my own region. There are lots of others, but I am going to run out of time. There's increased funding for mental health; increased funding for apprenticeships and traineeships; increased funding for clean energy projects; increased funding for the NDIS; and increased funding for child care. So there's lots of spending going on there.
We have seen also the vaccine rollout. There were disruptions to supply at the start of that from Europe, but we see the numbers are back and we are now hitting record numbers as hundreds of thousands of Australians are getting vaccinated every week. I believe there is no better place in the world to be right now on the health and economic fronts than Australia. (Time expired)
The has just told us all to crack a smile and to celebrate. But in these times I'd like to start by acknowledging every Australian who has made enormous sacrifices to keep us safe during the global pandemic, especially Victorians facing their fourth lockdown and the many who are carrying the burden of this government's failures on quarantine and the vaccine rollout.
The Prime Minister tells us the COVID-19 vaccine is not a race, but it is. It's a race to beat this virus and the dangerous mutations leading to outbreaks across the world and close to home. The Prime Minister tells us not to fear the virus, but Australians, especially the most vulnerable, are paying the price for a Prime Minister who refuses to take responsibility, who refuses to do his job. Try telling frail, older Australians living in residential aged care that it's not a race or the workers trying to keep them safe who have been left behind and exposed when it comes to vaccination, or aged-care workers on the Central Coast of New South Wales, in the electorate I represent, who have been told they have to travel to Sydney or Newcastle to get their vaccine.
Try telling people living with a disability, who have been left exposed and vulnerable, and those who love and care for them that it's not a race—people like John Buckley, who contacted me concerned that his brother Terry, who lives with a severe disability, has not yet received the AstraZeneca vaccine and he understands that the home that he lives in Casuarina Grove, in my electorate, has not yet been allocated any vaccines. John said:
I am both appalled and astounded to discover that my brother and all the other seriously disabled residents of this facility are still waiting for appropriate intervention by the relevant government and non- government bodies.
As a pharmacist, a trained vaccinator and a local MP, I am increasingly concerned about vulnerable Australians who are exposed and at risk—and this risk is largely avoidable.
Last week, the government received 1.4 million vaccine doses but administered just over 500,000. We were told aged-care residents would be fully vaccinated by Easter under phase 1A. That was two months ago. It is now June—winter; the most dangerous season—and older Australians are still waiting and at risk. We were told four million Australians would be vaccinated by 1 April. The government missed their own target by 3.4 million. They told us back in February that there would be 13 pop-up vaccination clinics for aged-care workers ready by May. It is now June and there are only three and they are all in Sydney. That is where aged-care workers in my community and other regional areas are having to travel to be covered, to be safe and to keep other people safe.
This government has let down aged-care workers, frontline workers Australia is depending on to get us through the pandemic—many aged-care workers who have no choice but to work on more than one site just to get by to make a living. In the wake of the tragic COVID-19 deaths of 655 aged-care residents in Victoria, the government withdrew rules on single-site working in aged-care homes and only reinstated them last week. Aged-care workers are as much the victim of this government's botched vaccine rollout as the people they are trying to keep safe. While they are looking after the most vulnerable, frail older Australians who is looking out for them? Not this government.
Every time there is an outbreak from hotel quarantine, it is a direct result of Scott Morrison's failure to set up safe, purpose-built quarantine facilities.
Yes; the Prime Minister. Every time there is an outbreak from hotel quarantine it costs workers wages and businesses lost income. Hotels are built for tourism, not for medical quarantine. This is a Prime Minister who never takes responsibility for anything—who doesn't take responsibility for quarantine and who hasn't taken responsibility for the debacle of the vaccine rollout.
In my community, one in five people are aged over 65. In my community there are 26 aged-care facilities. In communities like mine across Australia, vulnerable Australians are at risk, and that is because of the failure of this government. This is a prime minister who doesn't even take responsibility for the words that he says about the vaccine rollout, saying that the vaccine rollout is not a race, saying that we shouldn't fear this virus. This is the largest public health effort in living memory. As a pharmacist, as a local MP, as trained vaccinator, I know how important this is. I know that Australians are relying on us. I know that the most-vulnerable Australians are feeling at risk and exposed, and the government must take responsibility. They must get it right. It's too important.
What Australians are looking for at this point in time is political leadership from across the spectrum. They are looking for some form of unity from the members of the opposition, but what they're seeing is simply divisive politics.
A government member interjecting—
That is absolutely right. It is so very unfortunate to see that the members opposite are continuously being negative. Look at where Australia is right now and compare us to just about any other country in the world. Where would you rather be? Member for Fairfax, where would you rather be? I know I would rather be here in Australia than in just about any other country. So many people, so many of my constituents tell me: 'Thank God for Scott Morrison. Thank God for the Treasurer.' They don't usually say, 'Thank God for the PM,' although they sometimes do. I'm just using it as a quote. They say, 'Thank God for the Prime Minister. Thank God for the Treasurer.' It's true. I can't quite remember anyone ever having said to me: 'Thank God for the Leader of the Opposition.' Some people do. Some people think he's our best asset, but I'll leave that one alone. He probably is our best asset.
On this side of the House, we believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. On that side of the House, they believe that the only way that you can lift an Australian up is by tearing someone else down. We don't believe in that. We believe that Australia is the greatest country in the world, and we want to give people the opportunity to be the best that they can be. Those members opposite have absolutely and categorically lost their way. They believe that they can ignore, in fact they believe they can trash, what used to be their traditional constituency—that is, the worker. The Labor Party is no longer the party of the worker. We on this side of the House support workers more than those opposite ever will. Even the member for Hunter—
Opposition members interjecting—
The member will pause for a moment. The level of interjections from members on my left is too high, and I would tell the two people at the table—the member for Aston and the member for Chifley—to stop the conversation that's going on or at least lower the level of the conversation.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The member for Hunter understands this, and those members opposite ignore his cries at their peril.
The main thing I want to talk about today is that this government continuously walks and whistles at the same time. Not only are we great at protecting our economy and not only are we great at leading the way from a health perspective, but we are leading the way on things like age verification for online porn. Maybe those members opposite didn't hear what I said. This government is leading the way on age verification for online porn. Maybe they don't think that's important, I don't know. The government released its response to a report by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs on Tuesday, in which it accepted the committee's recommendations to prevent young people being able to access pornography online. We know that there's a direct correlation between pornography and domestic violence. They say, 'What's this got to do with our having a plan for the future?' They are our future. The kids are our future. We believe, on this side of the House, that young people grow up to be adults, and we want to protect the age of innocence. We want to protect young people from the scourge that is being pushed on them on the internet, which is ultimately impacting on relationships as they get older. You may not see that. We certainly do. (Time expired)
The coalition government has rightly been labelled one of announcements and no delivery. It thrives on spin and PR. Unconcerned with the consequences of incompetence, they appear to thrive on cruelty and neglect. After eight years of cutting services and wages, they have no plan for the future. The recent budget, like the last, is a missed opportunity—$100 billion in spending and a record $1 trillion in debt. There is no plan to help struggling families and small business tackle the jobs crisis or build for the future. With no plan, I fear this will leave us well behind our global peers over the coming decades, with Australia on the edge of the global stage and our younger generation worse off.
This government has mishandled JobKeeper, aged care, the NDIS, national quarantine and the vaccine rollout. Fifteen to 20 billion dollars of JobKeeper money intended to go to struggling businesses became corporate welfare. JobKeeper was supposed to support those who were suffering. It was never meant to go to the profits of those who were rising, in stark contrast to the way this government hounded our most vulnerable with incorrect and illegal robodebt.
While the government has done a great job handing out corporate welfare, it failed in the two most important jobs it had during the pandemic: vaccinating the population and ensuring safe quarantine. The Prime Minister claimed the vaccine rollout isn't a race. Well, if it wasn't a race, why did he boast about being at the front of the queue? But we're not even in the top 100 countries in total vaccinations. The Prime Minister failed to secure enough vaccines for us. There was no planning for the complications or delivery issues. The Prime Minister promised that four million people would be vaccinated by the end of March. That didn't happen.
These failures have real consequences for Australians, especially our most vulnerable. We've heard horror stories and we've seen the reports. The aged-care sector has been neglected, leaving private companies to profit from our elderly and vulnerable. The government was given warning after warning—22 reports, in fact. These are the words of researcher Sarah Russell regarding the vaccinations in aged care:
Despite these vacuous announcements, the vaccination rollout has been an unmitigated disaster … about 30% of aged care homes have not received their second dose.
Finally, today in question time we learned how many aged care workers had been vaccinated. But I'm concerned, because, if you didn't know the numbers until today, how can you plan and ensure that both the workers and the people who are in aged care are safe? The one fail-safe, requiring workers to work in only one facility, was removed, only being reinstated last Friday.
It's the same story for those with a disability and those working in the disability sector. People with disabilities seem to have no priority in this vaccine rollout. But it doesn't end there. The NDIS has been undermined and mismanaged under successive coalition governments, with self-confessed cost-cutting leaving some of our most vulnerable Australians without the support they need.
The failure continues on quarantine. Quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility. Australians should have a national quarantine system, and it should have been implemented last year. If that had happened, Victoria would not be in lockdown now. Instead, the federal government has left the responsibility to the states, with no guidance—only liability and contempt—while tens of thousands of our citizens have been abandoned overseas. The stories from places like India are heartbreaking. Australians are living in constant fear of contracting COVID-19 in nations overwhelmed and with collapsing health systems. We've already had needless deaths of Australians stuck in India.
Australians need good government. It changes lives and it makes all the difference. It opens the doors to education, employment, housing, proper health care and a better life. Unlike this government, Labor has a plan: building affordable housing, protecting workers, investing in skills and apprenticeships and helping young Australians. To say I'm disappointed in our current government is an understatement. I know I'm part of the opposition party and anything I say will give the impression that I'm happy they are failing. But that is far from the truth. I am not. As an Australian I want my government to be better and govern for every single one of us. I want a government that is on our side.
I was a little perplexed today when I read about this MPI. I was wracking my brain thinking, why would it be that the Labor Party would be casting such spurious and inaccurate assertions? Then it came to me, and I've finally figured it out. I've figured out why they would be accusing us of not having a plan. It's because those opposite do not have a plan. They are also clearly disappointed that we in the coalition have a plan and that plan is working. I'm very pleased to point this out, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to point out some aspects of this plan which are absolutely working. I'll get to some of the detail about the plan in a moment, but I will say first of all what sits behind this plan, the things which we in the coalition believe. We believe that Australian people have a great deal of personal initiative. We want to set free the aspirations that we know Australians hold. We deal with them back in our electorates and we back them 100 per cent. We've seen that initiative displayed time and time again. We don't want to hold them back. We don't want to tax them to the hilt, like we saw proposed by Labor at the last election campaign. They proposed the introduction of $387 billion in new taxes. No, in fact we are cutting taxes. We also believe in families. We want families to be spending more time with each other once they've had a hard day at work, and that's why we're investing in infrastructure so heavily as well.
I turn now to some of the specifics of this plan. This plan will help us to recover our economy, to cement that recovery and create jobs, to guarantee essential services and to protect and secure our interests in a vastly changing world. We're delivering outcomes. For example, in terms of vaccinations, there was certainly some complexity to be managed early in the piece, and for the first million doses there was a period of 47 days for those doses to be administered. I'm very pleased, as the Prime Minister announced just today, that our fourth lot of one million doses has been delivered in just 10 days. We are cementing our economic recovery to create jobs. We're providing tax cuts. In my electorate of Stirling, we are seeing 62,105 residents receiving tax cuts worth up to $2,500. We're enabling 21,000 businesses in my electorate to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase.
We are also building the infrastructure for the future. Again, I'll give a couple of examples from the wonderful electorate of Stirling. One of the great problem intersections is at Erindale Road and Reid Highway. We're devoting $2 million to a business case to look at what methods can be used to free up that traffic flow. For the residents who live in that area—and I know this because I hear from them regularly—that intersection is a bit of a nightmare. Another great initiative is one the previous Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Minister Tudge, very kindly and thoughtfully oversaw, via his department, with the allocation of $2 million, which is a commitment for a business case for trackless tram. I hear people say, 'Trackless tram, what's that about?' I can give a bit of an overview. This is essentially the size of a tram, it fits about 200 passengers on board, but it doesn't require the heavy infrastructure—the rail tracks, the overhead lines. It runs on a dedicated line and frees up traffic flow greatly. It's also a much greener solution than having all of those cars on the road. That's the sort of thing that this government is doing. It's getting behind projects that help Australians spend less time in traffic and more time with their families. It gets cars off the road, reduces pollution, and alleviates parking in those key areas that people want to be, like Scarborough Beach.
And we're continuing to deliver the essential services we all rely on—for example, $17.7 billion in additional funding to aged care; and the listing on the PBS of new products like Oripro, which is manufactured in my electorate, in Belcatta, to help prevent premature births. What a fantastic outcome. So there are many ways, including in defence, where we're spending $270 billion, whereas Labor actually ripped $18 billion out of defence. We're doing this all for the future of all Australians.
Honestly! The past two speakers from the government, in a debate in the nation's parliament about the government's plan for our future, have offered up a new intersection and cracking down on kiddie porn! You would not read it in Betoota. It's not credible. They would not believe it. And yet here we are, apparently on muck-up day—the last day of these parliamentary sittings—and that's what we have by way of a plan. A new intersection and cracking down on child porn: that's the plan for the future. No wonder, if you are a young person in Australia and you are hearing our Prime Minister say, 'If you have a go, you will get a go,' you don't believe him. Young people in Australia know that life is not that simple—nor, in this Morrison Australia, is it that reliably benevolent for young people, because we know 40 per cent of people under 35 in Australia have never had a permanent full-time job. Forty per cent of young people have never had a permanent full-time job because of the structural, the systemic, the complacent attitude that this government has towards young people and their future.
This Morrison government has cut millions from TAFE. We have 150,000 fewer apprentices than we did when Labor was last in power. University fees for young people will double under this Morrison government. And, if you are lucky enough to get a job out of university, you'll be saddled with decades of crippling debt as your reward. This is the Morrison government that hands out tax incentives to wealthy investors like they're Smarties. These are the same wealthy investors that then poach the market from first home buyers who cannot get their foot in the door because those wealthy investors hike up the cost of property so much that first home buying is now an out-of-reach dream for most young Australians. This is the Morrison government that patronises us when we talk about a need for real action on climate change because we are the people who will be around in 50 years time, mopping up your messes. We are the people who will be dealing with the consequences of the choices that you make or do not make. There is no planet B, and the whole plan you are offering up to us this afternoon is a new intersection and cracking down on child porn. You would not read it in Betoota. Why on earth should young people trust this Morrison government with their future?
Given it's muck-up afternoon, let's play a little game: is this a Betoota headline or is this a real Morrison government announcement? Treasurer tells young first home buyers being crushed by an investor driven housing market of his own making to get a better job?
An opposition member: Betoota.
Treasurer. 'Government asks youth to use their retirement savings to prop up hyper-inflated property market'?
An opposition member: Betoota.
Treasurer. Deputy Prime Minister, who earns nine grand a week, tells casual baristas who earn $20 an hour that going a week without pay 'is not a long time'?
An opposition member: Oh, that's Betoota!
The young people of Queensland's mighty Channel Country deserve a whole lot better than that. The sons and daughters of the proud, sovereign Shire of Diamantina deserve a whole lot better than that. That is why a Labor government, if we were given the trust of young people to govern, would provide an actual youth engagement model—so that real people could actually have some trust in this government. We would have a dedicated office for youth. We would promise and commit to a new minister for youth.
This Morrison government says that young people are disengaged, but they're only disengaged because this Morrison government has cut them loose. At this point, I honestly don't know what it will take to make this Morrison government wake up, listen to what is wrong, listen to what young people want from them, and actually take some action. Maybe, if we let the Prime Minister wear high-vis and a hardhat, he might actually talk to the young people who are aged-care workers, who are early educators, who are baristas, who are glassies, who are people working in hospitality, who are the frontline workers that we have to thank for our response to COVID. Maybe, if we let the Prime Minister bring some red carpet and a military escort and Top Gun soundtrack, he might actually build fit-for-purpose quarantine so that we could bring 45,000 Australians home.
This is an absolutely fantastic topic for us, because the Morrison government has a plan for Australia, and I certainly have a plan for Lindsay. The Leader of the Opposition is again showing that he has a plan to rehash old Labor plans, just like he announced in the budget. Today he has announced he has a plan to rehash Morrison government plans, when he decided he would build a stronger economy. But the Australian people know that there is only one side of the House that can be trusted with the economy—that's us—and to secure Australia's future. Our plan is to keep Australians safe and to support them through the challenges of the pandemic, and to emerge stronger on the other side, and to be—as we are—in a better position than anywhere else in the world.
While other nations with advanced economies continue to be hit hard by coronavirus, Australia's economy is growing. The national accounts show that Australia's economy is now larger than it was before going into the coronavirus pandemic. In just over a year, Australia's economy has recovered to what it lost as a result of the pandemic. But we know it's not over. Globally, there are around half a million cases a day, and other countries are back in recession. And the situation in Victoria, as we know, is stark. It's a reminder that the virus is still with us, and we must stick to our plan that has enabled us to be in the position we are in today.
We have a plan for Australia, and I have a plan for Lindsay, and my plan is to make sure that we have more jobs, and that is exactly what we're doing: rewarding hardworking families, getting more young people into work through traineeships, and backing our local small businesses. That's exactly what my community of Lindsay sees we're doing, and that is exactly what we're doing right across our country.
The budget handed down by the Treasurer outlines our plan to continue jobs creation, continue backing our local businesses to do what they do best, and to secure Australia's future. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to talk about manufacturing, but this just highlighted exactly how much Labor has abandoned Australian workers. What we're doing is backing local manufacturers to create more local jobs. That's what we're certainly doing in Western Sydney. We have an amazing number, over 600, of Australian manufacturers in my electorate of Lindsay—from Plustec, who make Aussie made windows, to Defence industry manufacturers, to SpanSet, who make safety harnesses. There is such an array of Aussie manufacturers that we are backing and supporting to create Aussie made products to support Aussie made businesses.
Something that these manufacturers are telling me is that, because we're backing them and we have a plan to back them, they are bringing on more apprentices. This is absolutely fantastic. We already have over 2,200 apprentices in Lindsay, and local manufacturers are taking up our budget response and bringing on more apprentices. This means that this will only grow, supporting more young people into jobs, supporting Western Sydney and supporting our Australian economy.
Businesses need to be able to transport their products, and not only do local people in my electorate of Lindsay tell me that we need a plan to make our local roads better; so do small businesses. That's why I fought for $127 million for a full upgrade to Dunheved Road in my community. It wasn't just me doing this; it wasn't just my plan. It was our community's plan—working together to get the job done. It's amazing what we can achieve when we work together. These are families who use this road every day, to and from work and school. It's small businesses transporting their products. It's actually small business owners who have told me they have suffered so much on this road for so long; it's been such a big safety issue with accidents and traffic. I'm so pleased that this funding has been delivered, and now it's up to Penrith City Council to deliver this important project for us.
Right across New South Wales we're investing $3.8 billion for projects that will ease congestion and provide safer roads for our community. Upgrades to Dunheved Road, upgrades to the Northern Road and upgrades to Mulgoa Road—this is part of our plan to make my community of Lindsay absolutely safe and to make it an even better place to live, work and stay. Across the board, people in Lindsay have worked so incredibly hard to get us in the position we are in now, and the Morrison government, with our plan, is backing them all the way.
Victorians are doing it really tough under this lockdown. I and many of my Victorian colleagues are heading back to Melbourne tonight. I'll be kicking the footy with the kids, taking very long walks, playing board games and doing all the things that Victorians are going to do to get through this lockdown. But we all know there is a huge mental health impact on all Victorians as we go through this lockdown.
I want to say in this place that Victorians are Australians, too. Victorians need a Prime Minister that doesn't have to be forced, pushed and cajoled into providing support, whose first instinct is not to abandon Victorians but to come immediately to their assistance. Victorians need a Prime Minister who will take responsibility willingly, not shirk responsibility shamefully. Victorians need a Treasurer who is not mean-spiritedly refusing, initially, to provide any emergency funding for small businesses and workers in Victoria. As I'm sure my colleagues do, I welcome the announcement of support made just now by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, but why did it take them a week? Why did it take the state government, the federal Labor opposition and the people arguing and begging for them to step up to push them into a position they should have taken immediately of their own accord? If Team Australia means anything to them, surely it means providing support to fellow Australians in Victoria, not arguing against it for an entire week.
But we don't have such leadership. We have a Prime Minister whose first instinct is to pick a fight, to play politics, to see where the politics takes him, to wander wherever the political winds blow and then, and only then, be forced into the right position—not because he cares but because he realises he has to cover his political tracks. Those opposite have to spend taxpayer dollars to patch over their political problems, not because it's an investment in the economy or the future of this nation or that it's the right thing to do. Nowhere is this clearer than when you look at the government's two fundamental responsibilities, which they continue to shirk: federal quarantine and the vaccine rollout.
On quarantine: it's actually in section 51 of our Constitution. It's their responsibility. From the beginning of this crisis, there was an expectation that the federal government would come up with the resources, the planning and the policy to set up federal quarantine facilities that are fit for purpose. They have not done so. This goes beyond shirking responsibility. This is an egregious abdication of responsibility to the nation. The federal government could have set up safer quarantine facilities like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. Look at the stats: Howard Springs—zero outbreaks; hotel quarantine—21.
On vaccines: I said last year—and I wasn't alone—we need to have contingencies in place. Buy six or seven vaccines. Get the supply right. Sign the contracts. If they all work, that's great, fantastic; we've got a surplus. We can help our Pacific neighbours with a surplus. We can be leaders in the region. But it was pretty clear-cut that not all of them would work. We knew that. When those opposite did start to take responsibility for the rollout, they just stuffed it up. I can only describe it as incompetence. They told us four million Australians would be vaccinated by 1 April. They missed their target by 3.4 million.
This MPI says that the government have no plan for the nation. But it's so much more than that. They have no vision. They have no care. They have no commitment beyond saving their own political skins. That's all they care about. When they do spend and make commitments, like they did today, it's to cover up a political problem. Australians deserve better than this mob. A federal Labor government will build dedicated quarantine facilities in every state and territory, fix the vaccine rollout, invest in manufacturing mRNA vaccines like Pfizer in Australia, and start a mass public information campaign, because we actually care for the people that we represent. Australians deserve better than this mob.
The Leader of the Opposition led the charge this afternoon in this debating topic, and he did so in a way that affirmed the difference between him and the Prime Minister. The difference is the same between the Labor Party and the Liberal-National coalition. While the Liberal Party is positive, as is the Prime Minister, the Labor Party is negative. While the Prime Minister seeks to unite, the opposition leader seeks to divide. While the Prime Minister has a clear, positive vision for the future, the Leader of the Opposition is constantly negative and can only talk about the past. The Prime Minister backs Australians in. The opposition leader refuses to back Australians and will only back the Labor Party in. The Prime Minister wants to unleash the innovative genius of Australians and back enterprise. The Labor Party just wants to tax them. We have heard that through what has been a painful hour on the ear from those opposite—a very difficult hour to listen to. The strange thing is: those opposite have come forward today with a debating topic talking about a plan for the future, yet not one of their speakers has articulated any plan for the future whatsoever. They can only talk about the past, and they do so so woefully poorly.
There are two key priorities for our nation as we look forward. One is the security of our nation, and the second is the prosperity of our nation.
Opposition members interjecting—
Isn't it extraordinary that those opposite decide to heckle and oppose and scoff when I talk about the importance of the security of our nation. Let's take ourselves through what the opposition stands for. One of the real challenges we face at the moment as a nation is the coercive economic measures being undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party on Australian businesses. There have been two opportunities for the opposition over the last week to join the government in pushing back and standing up for Australian businesses. Their foreign affairs spokesperson chose not to do so. And this very week the Leader of the Opposition chose not to do so. Those opposite are refusing to support the Australian government and the Australian people on something that has traditionally been bipartisan in this country. I personally believe there is no larger challenge of our time than trying to resolve the China question. Those opposite have broken a long-term bipartisan tradition, and they have done so at the compromise of our nation.
It was Vladimir Lenin, that Russian revolutionary, who coined the phrase 'a useful idiot', a useful idiot being one who unwittingly, out of ignorance, propagates the cause of another, and the leaders of that other get excited and let the useful idiot talk. I'm sorry to say that the Leader of the Opposition and the foreign affairs spokesperson for the opposition are proving to be useful idiots in this regard, because they have very clearly said that they do not support the Australian government in its attempts to push back on Communist China's coercive measures.
It is the same when it comes to economic prosperity. Those opposite's main complaint about the government is that the debt is too high, and their only solution is to spend more. Can you understand the economic illogical approach that is—debt too high therefore spend more? This is the problem we have with those opposite. It's why they cannot present a case today.