House debates

Tuesday, 15 June 2021


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail

4:00 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the minister to propose the schedule for the order of consideration of the portfolios, I'd like to remind all members of the purpose of the consideration in detail stage and outline the way it is expected to proceed. Shortly, the Federation Chamber will be asked to agree to a proposed schedule for the consideration of portfolios. This may need to be varied but is a useful guide to assist ministers and members in arranging their commitments.

Consideration in detail is a debate, and the call will be alternated between the government and non-government sides as always. Even though this debate sometimes takes the format of question and answer, this is not question time. Ministers and government backbench members both will be considered as speakers on the government side and should bear this in mind when they seek the call. All speakers are required to be relevant to whichever portfolio is being examined, but there is no requirement of direct relevance in respect of any responses to matters raised. It might be practical for ministers to respond to more than one speaker when they seek the call. I note that this general arrangement applied in recent years and seems to allow maximum participation at this stage of debate.

Each minister and the member will have up to five minutes to speak each time they are called, but they may wish to speak for a shorter time. Ministers may wish to speak first and make an introductory statement when debate on their portfolio begins, but that is a matter for them to decide. Members might also be aware of some administrative documents that are circulated when consideration in detail begins. To avoid confusion, let me say that any documents showing times allotted for debate on portfolios are informal and indicative only. Chairs will not be seeking to enforce these times strictly.

The Federation Chamber will now consider the bill in detail. In accordance with standing order 149, the Federation Chamber will first consider the schedule of the bill.

4:02 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

May I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Federation Chamber to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and groupings shown in the schedule which has been circulated to honourable members.

The schedule read as follows—

Foreign Affairs and Trade



Defence—Veterans’ Affairs/Defence Personnel

Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

Education, Skills and Employment

Education, Skills and Employment—Education and Youth


Home Affairs

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications—Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts

Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Agriculture, Water and the Environment—Environment

Agriculture, Water and the Environment—Resources, Water and Northern Australia


Social Services

Social Services—National Disability Insurance Scheme/Government Services


Prime Minister and Cabinet

Prime Minister and Cabinet—Indigenous Australians

I also take the opportunity to indicate to the Federation Chamber that the proposed order for consideration of portfolios estimates has been discussed with the opposition and there has been no objection to what is proposed.

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is it the wish of the Federation Chamber to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the minister? There being no objection, it is so ordered.

Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $7,125,531,000

4:03 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to speak to the 2021-22 budget covering the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. This budget will support the government's commitment to create jobs and drive economic growth, serve Australians in need overseas and advance Australia's interests internationally.

The government will provide $198.2 million over four years from 2021-22 to boost DFAT's trade and strategic capabilities to better support Australian exporters and businesses and to increase cooperation with partners overseas in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific. The measure includes funding for supporting Australian businesses to diversify their trade; strengthening the rules based trading system; expanding advocacy and cooperation with partners for an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific; sustaining the government's overseas diplomatic network; and returning the New Colombo Plan to prepandemic funding levels.

The government will invest $119.9 million over four years from 2021-22 to increase Australia's consular capability and provide additional support to vulnerable Australian citizens overseas whose return to Australia has been impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, including providing critical funding to strengthen DFAT's consular capabilities so it can continue to provide a responsive, effective and enhanced service for Australians.

As part of its COVID-19 response, the Australian government is continuing the special overseas financial assistance program, the hardship program, to provide emergency assistance, including grants and interest-free loans, to the most vulnerable Australians overseas seeking to return to Australia. I'm pleased to note that the Australian government will continue the facilitated commercial flights, FCF, program, with an additional $56.4 million over two years from 2021-22. This will fund an estimated 120 flights. The government will also provide $37.1 million over two years from 2020-21 to support India's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. I note, Madam Deputy Speaker, that on 5 May the Australian government delivered to India 1,056 ventilators, 43 oxygen concentrators, power supply cables and essential equipment required for operation of the ventilators and oxygen concentrators. This funding is classified as official development assistance and is on top of the government's previously announced temporary and targeted measures in response to COVID-19 that supplement the $4 billion ODA budget in 2021-22.

The government will provide $10.9 million over five years from 2020-21 to support ongoing efforts to achieve truth, justice and accountability in relation to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and the government is continuing its support of the Dutch national prosecution of those responsible.

The government will provide $37.4 million over three years, including $19.9 million for Austrade, to support initiatives to modernise and improve Australia's trade system, including a review of the regulatory processes and ICT systems that impact cross-border trade. This involves driving implementation of ambitious simplified trade system reforms to make trading simpler and cheaper for exporters and importers.

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism is a targeted and temporary measure established by the Australian government to keep global air links open in response to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 11 March 2021 the Australian government announced a further $112.8 million in funding to extend the International Freight Assistance Mechanism till the end of September 2021. On 11 March 2021 the government also announced that around 800,000 air fare prices would be halved in the Tourism and Aviation Network Support Program, the TANS program, as part of its $1.2 billion aviation and tourism support plan. The Tourism and Aviation Network Support Program will get Australians travelling, supporting tourism operators, accommodation providers and other businesses heavily impacted by the loss of international visitors.

I also note that on 23 December 2020 the government announced a $72.7 million funding package to establish the Agri-Business Expansion Initiative to help Australian agrifood exporters expand and diversify their export markets. I have much more to say but I will yield to the opposition. (Time expired)

4:08 pm

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

I will pick up where the minister left off. Obviously, the tourism industry has been particularly impacted by COVID-19 and will continue to struggling in the face of the Morrison government's delays with the vaccine rollout and its refusal to take responsibility for quarantine. Pre-COVID, tourism employed over one million Australians across some 300,000 businesses, but over the past 18 months we've watched as the industry has contracted and shuddered under the weight of mounting pressures. While some parts of the industry have begun to recover, particularly those that are in the domestic market, businesses reliant on international visitors continue to face challenges and need support.

To date, the government have overwhelmingly relied on economy-wide measures to support the industry, not recognising the unique challenges in the tourism sector. I think it is important for the government to explain why they don't fully understand or appreciate some of the challenges and stresses that the tourism industry are under. You can see this demonstrated in the approach to the end of JobKeeper. The Morrison government knew for some time that it was not going to continue JobKeeper, but, instead of being clear with tourism operators, in an industry that relies on forward planning, it made them wait until the eleventh hour and then announced a haphazard plan that did not provide any immediate support. The government's plan of discounted flights to hand-picked regions, which were selected in a shroud of mystery, alongside the guaranteed small business loans, which are almost impossible to access, was immediately slammed by peak bodies as falling short of what the sector needs to save jobs and businesses.

In addition, the government has doubled down on a series of grant programs which have repeatedly missed the mark, whether it is the Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums Program, which, after a year, has only spent around 50 per cent of its funding, or the lacklustre COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program, which, during the first round, produced vastly inequitable results across agencies, followed by a second round that has seen significant delays for many agents. Both grant programs have suffered the same problem: they were designed by a government which isn't on the side of the tourism industry and the over one million people whose livelihoods depend on it. In my own electorate in South Australia, I've heard from a number of tourism operators who are uncertain about their future and their ability to weather this storm.

We know that domestic tourism alone cannot make up for the $45 billion gap of international tourism, and the government has acknowledged borders are unlikely to open until the middle of next year. Why won't the government provide much-needed support to internationally reliant businesses, who continue to be impacted by the government's delays with the vaccine rollout and the refusal to take responsibility for the quarantine arrangements? What does the government say to the thousands of business owners whose livelihoods hang in the balance while waiting for this government to recognise that it has a special responsibility to these businesses, who are in this situation through no fault of their own? And can the minister be content to continue to sit by and simply watch this once thriving industry struggling to desperately hang on?

4:12 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. The reality is that the tourism industry has no greater friend than this government.

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Those opposite might want to listen, and I'll run through all of the support that we have given to this industry. We are a true friend of this industry; we have supported it through these very trying times. On 11 March 2021, the government announced a $1.2 billion tourism and aviation support package to support the tourism sector through the vaccine rollout and set back up for normal trading. In terms of the funding and support in the package, we have the Tourism Aviation Network Support Program, which I just referred to in my opening remarks, designed to drive demand for aviation tourism by halving the cost of up to 800,000 airfares to regional tourism destinations for four months, or around 46,000 seats a week; the extension of the $50 million Business Events Grant program by three months to support the events sector; the extension of the $94.6 million Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums Program by six months so that zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks can maintain their animal population; a further $130 million of support for travel agents so they can continue to process refunds and hold credits for Australian consumers; and the extension of the SME loan guarantee scheme to underwrite loans with banks, with an 80-20 split, to support up to $40 billion in lending to small and medium enterprises.

We on this side of the House know how difficult it is to run businesses. We know what it's like to build businesses. We are the coalition of businesspeople, of the men and women who build the prosperity of this country. We are not a party of union apparatchiks like those on the other side.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government also supported the tourism sector through whole-of-economy measures such as JobKeeper and sector specific measures. They included direct tourism support of $387 million, tourism related support of $270.2 million, indirect tourism support of $451.8 million. Have any of you on that side of the House ever run a small business or a medium sized business or a large business? There are very few of you, I can tell you that. In fact, you've only got one tradie on that side of the House, and that's Joel, the member for Hunter. The tourism sector was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund, which included the following tourism support: regional airlines funding assistance, $100 million; regional air network assistance, $198 million—and the member next to me loves that fund—zoos and aquariums, $94.6 million; business events, $50 million; and Regional Recovery Partnerships, $100 million.

Turning to the Tourism Aviation Network Support program, as I've said, this was announced on 11 March, and around 800,000 airfares will be halved under that program. That's real support to businesses and tourism areas in need. We have answered the call on this side of the House. Other tourism measures include the Recovery of Regional Tourism program, $50 million; the National Tourism Icons program, $50 million; and the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program Round 1, $128 million, which supported travel agents to process refunds and continue to hold credits while receiving little to no revenue. We know on this side of the House what a difficult time it has been for our tourism sector and the business people that keep it alive at all levels, from the transport sector through to the folks who run the hotels and hospitality to our tourist destinations themselves—our events, theme parks, all of that. We understand how difficult it is.

I can remember looking outside my electorate office window in those early days of COVID and seeing those lines of folks outside the Centrelink office, which is across the road from my office. How uncertain and desperate those times were. But we have answered the call on this side of the House. JobKeeper was a game changer. Our tourism initiatives have been a blessing and a lifeline to the tourism sector. We on this side of the House have been there when the industry and the sector have needed us, and we have answered that call.

4:17 pm

Photo of Madeleine KingMadeleine King (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

My question on appropriation is for the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Minister, it's absolutely clear that the rest of the world is moving toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050. More than 120 countries worldwide have adopted this target, and more than 70 per cent of Australia's two-way trade is now with countries moving to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. Yesterday, the leaders of the G7 reaffirmed their commitment to this important target. The Prime Minister was invited to the summit, yet he chose to thumb his nose at the G7 leaders by refusing to back net zero emissions by 2050.

Australia is more isolated than ever on climate change. In addition, some of our biggest trading partners are moving closer to implementing carbon border taxes designed to hit nations such as Australia that have made insufficient efforts to combat climate change. Within weeks, the European Commission is expected to release the details of its proposed carbon border adjustment mechanism—that's carbon tariffs. I'm not a fan of any kind of tariff, but these are real and they're going to exist. The carbon tariffs will require importers of polluting industrial goods to pay a border levy based on the volume of emissions used in making and shipping their products. Other nations could easily follow the EU's lead. Indeed, the US has already put carbon tariff legislations through their congress in 2009. The writing is clearly on the wall, and this government, Minister, is ignoring it. The world is moving on, and we are being left behind.

So my question is: why won't the Morrison government commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 when all our main trading partners and major economies already have? Why won't the government honestly explain to Australia's trade exposed industries that our status as a climate change laggard poses a real threat to jobs and exports? Minister, why does this government have its head in the sand on the issue of climate change? The Prime Minister said last year he was not concerned 'about Australia's future exports.' Imagine that—a Prime Minister not concerned about Australia's future exports. Well, I sure am. Then, in February this year, the Deputy Prime Minister dismissed talk of net zero emissions by saying he was not worried about what might happen in 30 years time. Well, I reckon a few people around here are worried about what might happen in 30 years time, especially young children and older people. They are definitely worried about what will happen to their lives and their children's lives in 30 years time.

Minister, why are both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister not worried about the real threats facing Australia's exporters? Why won't the Morrison government commit to net zero emissions by 2050, when peak industry bodies such as the National Farmers Federation, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association have either committed to the target or have called upon the Morrison government to adopt policies that align with international climate change goals? Minister, why won't the Morrison government commit to this, when resource and major export companies in this country, such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue, INPEX, Origin Energy and Santos—companies driving the economy and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of Australians—have already committed to net zero by 2050, or even sooner in the case of Santos?

I'll raise another threat to our exporters: this government's genuine failure to ensure Australia has a genuine diversity of trading partners. Australia is a trading nation; we depend on trade. It is the Australian government's job to encourage businesses to export their goods and services to the world and to support these businesses in doing so. It is the government's role to ensure diversification in trade and to go beyond the mere inking of free trade agreements and the celebratory shenanigans that go along with them. Minister, it was said in December that the government wanted to diversify Australia's export markets by restarting talks with India on a free trade agreement. But almost three years ago this government was handed a blueprint for closer economic engagement with India that would almost certainly have led to more exports to India and more jobs for Australians. An India Economic Strategy, written by Peter Varghese, contained 20 priority recommendations. A highly valuable report that was funded by taxpayers, it has been ignored. My question is: Minister, why has the government implemented only one of the 20 priority recommendations from the Varghese report?

To achieve genuine trade diversification takes years and decades of work, requiring skilled diplomacy and even personal intervention and, dare I say, leadership from senior ministers or even the Prime Minister. This is not happening with this government. Previous governments, both Labor and Liberal, have managed to achieve trade diversity, but it is not happening under this government; they just do trade agreements and then leave the room. Minister, when will you admit that you simply have not put in the hard yards needed to genuinely open up new export markets? (Time expired)

4:22 pm

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

I'm pleased to rise to speak in this budget consideration in detail on a very important key pillar of the Gold Coast economy, which is tourism, and also, of course, on foreign affairs and trade. I echo the sentiments of the minister when I say that the 2021 budget considers $198.2 million over four years to boost DFAT's trade and strategic capabilities to better support Australian exporters and businesses and to increase cooperation with partners overseas in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific to be very much in Australia's national interest.

There's $119.9 million over four years to increase our consular capability to provide support to those vulnerable Australians overseas whose return to Australia has been impacted by COVID-19. There is an additional $56.4 million over two years for approximately 120 facilitated commercial flights. There's $37.1 million over two years to support India's COVID-19 response. There are very many from the Gopio community in my electorate whom my office has helped reunite with their families and there are many heartbreaking stories from India in my community. There is $37.4 million over three years, including 19.9 million for Austrade, to support a simplified trade system, including a review of the regulatory processes and ICT systems that impact trade.

Let me outline a couple of the programs that I have been directly working on from Moncrieff with the current Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and also with the former minister, who, of course, is now the Minister for Finance. Firstly, there is the aviation and tourism package, which was announced in March this year post JobKeeper. At the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Minister Tehan and I, together with local Gold Coast ministers, the member for Fadden and the member for McPherson, announced the $1.2 billion aviation and tourism support plan to support 15 destinations across Australia. Over 800,000 half-price airfares have gone on sale, with over 786,000 already sold. The Gold Coast is amongst the biggest beneficiaries, with 233,506 half-price airfares into the Gold Coast. The money that comes up with tourists to the Gold Coast goes into local cafes and restaurants, and we very much appreciate being one of those destinations.

Let me talk about the $94.6 million Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums Program, which was originally an outcome of a tourism round table in Moncrieff way back in February last year with Senator Birmingham. I'm pleased that it will now be extended for a further six months. I can tell you with authority that the dolphins at Sea World are healthy. I visited them just last week. The staff taking care of the koalas at Currumbin, the tigers at Dreamworld and the animals of many other attractions across Australia know that their wildlife is taken care of under this budget and under this government.

An additional $65.5 million for export market development grants will assist Australian and Gold Coast exporters as well. There is $185.3 million for Tourism Australia in 2021-22 to continue marketing domestic tourism and ensure Australia is well placed to restart international tourism when it is safe to do so. The government has also extended and expanded the $40 billion SME loan guarantee for small and family business—music to our ears in Moncrieff.

I want to outline for the Chamber travel agents and assistance, because I advocated very heavily for that to the Prime Minister. Round 1 opened on 14 December and closed on 13 March 2021. On 2 May 2021 the $130 million second round of the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program opened. The program, now worth $258 million, provides grants to travel agents to continue to operate and process refunds for consumers. It has been a very difficult time for travel agencies, and 2,964 travel agents are very, very grateful. They have received their round 1 payments. As at 19 May 2021 $19.5 million in grant funding has already been paid under round 2. There are 945 additional travel agents who have received their payments.

Then there was, of course, the $50 million business events grants that I'm so pleased assisted us on the Gold Coast, with conferences coming back to the Gold Coast, coming back to Royal Pines and coming back to the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre to buoy our local economy. I thank the government for that; I really do. My community are so grateful for the help that the government has delivered post-JobKeeper and in this 2021 budget to the tourism industry, who absolutely were on their knees. The Morrison government has come to the rescue and helped us through this very difficult time.

4:27 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Australia's official development assistance program is how we help the poorest people in the world climb out of destitution and despair. The coronavirus pandemic makes official development assistance more important than ever. Many countries in our region have poorly resourced health systems which have struggled to cope with the pandemic, and the plight of people in developing countries is getting worse as the pandemic continues to unfold.

When I spoke on last year's appropriation bill in November, the World Bank was estimating that COVID would push an extra 88 million to 115 million people around the world into extreme poverty. In the seven months since then, the World Bank has revised this estimate up to 124 million people who have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 alone. Since last November there have been major COVID outbreaks in our region; Indonesia, India and Papua New Guinea have been hit hard. Yet, in those seven months as COVID has worsened in the Indo-Pacific, the Morrison government increased official development assistance by only $37 million in the 2021-22 budget. That additional $37.1 million in support for India is welcome, but it represents an increase of just 0.2 per cent in the aid budget over the forward estimates. It's a tiny amount when we remember that this Liberal government has already cut a massive $11.8 billion from Australia's aid budget since 2013, and it is positively miniscule in the context of a budget with policy decisions costing nearly $100 billion.

In the 2020-21 budget the government did provide new funding of $304.7 million to help Pacific countries recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and $500 million to support access to COVID-19 vaccines in the Pacific and South-East Asia. Labor welcomes these measures, but they are a drop in the ocean following the government's $11.8 billion of cuts to foreign aid. The axe which the Liberals have taken to the aid budget includes large cuts to health programs in developing countries—a remarkably short-sighted approach in light of the pandemic.

Australia's official development assistance for health programs will be $229 million lower in 2020-21 than it was in 2014-15—a reduction of 28 per cent. Let me repeat that: this government, in the midst of a global COVID pandemic, has cut the level of health ODA by $229 million since 2014-15. These cuts have fallen hard on countries in the Indo-Pacific. Since 2014-15 the Morrison government has cut bilateral aid for health programs by 39 per cent for Laos, 64 per cent for Cambodia, 80 per cent for Bangladesh, 82 per cent for Vietnam and 87.5 per cent for Indonesia. These are massive cuts for some of our most important regional partners and are incredibly short-sighted. When Australia walks away from our partners, who does the Prime Minister think will help fill these gaps? Our region is more contested than ever. How is the Prime Minister delivering on our interests and supporting our shared pandemic recoveries if he leaves vacuums for others to fill?

The main vehicle the international community has established to tackle the pandemic in developing countries is the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, overseen by the WHO. The ACT Accelerator, which includes the Gavi Covax Facility, is rolling out tests, vaccines and treatments to low-income countries around the world. The Morrison government has contributed $143 million to these efforts. By comparison, the United States has contributed US$5.2 billion, Germany has contributed US$2.6 billion and the UK and Canada have contributed US$1.1 billion each. On a per capita basis these countries have contributed between 3½ and seven times as much as the Australian government has to the Covax Facility and the ACT Accelerator. The government of Norway, with a population a fifth the size of Australia, has contributed nearly five times as much as the Morrison government. Australians donate hundreds of millions of dollars every year to charities for international development and humanitarian work, but individuals, churches and NGOs can't do it all. The government's inadequate response risks damaging Australia's national interests and our international standing. My question to the minister is: why has the government responded to the biggest development crisis in a generation by providing inadequate temporary measures rather than an ongoing sustainable boost to Australia's aid budget?

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

4:33 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

In the 2021-22 budget the Australian government announced $819.6 million over four years for new measures in the Attorney-General's portfolio, including $145.3 million over two years for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. The Morrison government will provide $320.1 million over four years from the Women's Safety Package to further support services that assist women and children experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence to engage with the legal system.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 16 : 34 to 16 : 48

This includes $129 million for additional legal assistance funding for women's legal assistance under the National Legal Assistance Partnership; $101.4 million to increase access to children's contact services; $85 million over three years from 2022-23 to continue and enhance funding towards existing Family Advocacy and Support Service's family law support; and $4.7 million over two years to support a joint program of work with the states and territories to strengthen the justice response to sexual assault, sexual harassment and coercive control.

The government will provide $123.8 million over four years to support the reform of the family law system and improve access and safety for children and families. The funding includes $60.8 million to reform family law case management processes to improve outcomes and better meet the needs of families by delivering a safe, child-centred, accessible and efficient system; $29 million to improve information sharing between the family law and family violence and child protection systems to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and families interacting with the family law system, including managing risks to family safety; $26.9 million over four years from 2021-22 and $6.8 million per year ongoing to improve access to legal assistance for family law matters in South Australia, and to increase judicial and court resources in the South Australian family law registry; and $6.3 million in 2021-22 to the Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme to continue to protect victims of family violence in family law proceedings.

The government will provide $2 billion over four years from 2021-22 for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, and in the Attorney-General's portfolio $77.1 million will be provided to the National Legal Assistance Partnership to support the early resolution of legal problems for those experiencing mental illness and for specialist mental health workers to support women who have experienced family violence.

The government will provide $146 million over four years from 2021-22 for initiatives to prevent child sexual abuse, including $40.8 million in the Attorney-General's portfolio to provide enhanced support to victims of child sexual abuse, including expanding the national specialist trauma-informed legal service and establishing a specialist national legal online chat service dedicated to young people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual abuse. It also provides increased resourcing for prosecuting child sexual abuse perpetrators and for managing the parole of convicted offenders.

In the Attorney-General's portfolio $9.3 million has been committed to new activities to implement the government's Roadmap for Respect, tackling sexual harassment in all Australian workplaces. The government will also provide $3.5 million over two years from 2020-21 to the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces. Further, the government will provide $10.7 million under the Women's Economic Security Package to assist vulnerable separated women with small-value property disputes to achieve affordable, timely property settlements.

The government will provide $13.2 million over four years from 2021-22 to continue the operation of the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Centre in developing a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to addressing fraud vulnerabilities in Commonwealth programs, including building practical tools, guidance and data analysis to support counterfraud work.

Through the 2021-22 budget, the Australian government will implement initiatives to help rebuild our economy by reducing the regulatory burden on Australian businesses, including small businesses, and that includes measures in the Attorney's portfolio for $10 million over four years from 2021-22 to implement regulatory technology solutions to assist employers to interpret and comply with modern awards.

4:53 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's clear that the past year has been tough for the people of my electorate of Bean and, more broadly, for the millions of workers across Australia. This pandemic has exposed the harsh truths we have known for years. Too many people in this country are working in low-paid, insecure employment, in some instances—like those in the gig economy—in conditions that drift towards modern-day slavery. Too many are in labour hire or casual employment.

This budget was not designed to get us through a pandemic that we are still in; it was designed to get the Prime Minister through to an election at the expense of many working families. While the Prime Minister is focused on the nearest camera, the wage price index is forecast to not even keep pace with inflation and Australians are left with a debt of over $1 trillion. Sure, the budget includes some funding for better technological integration for payroll, to assist with modern award obligations, and there is additional funding for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. These are good things. But we still see the ideological wars continue, with funding of the Registered Organisations Commission. And, importantly to many in my community, when it comes to skills, apprenticeships and investment in sciences, our universities and the cutting-edge innovation sector, we don't see enough. Funding for apprenticeships focuses on commencement years and doesn't flow through to completion.

We've seen thousands of jobs disappear across our university sector. This is despite the importance of this sector to our economy, driving innovation, productivity and investment. We don't see enough in these bills supporting this area. At their core, it's really in wages growth and secure jobs that these bills don't deliver. Too many workers barely have enough security to make ends meet and hence have to hold down multiple jobs. There used to be a time when individuals could plan five, 10, even 20 years down the track. They could have enough certainty to start a long-term career, to start a family, to own a home. But after eight long years of consistent attacks on industrial relations, on the Fair Work Commission, on the wages of workers and on the working conditions of families, too many are doing it too tough. There was a time, decades ago, when both sides of politics respected the livelihoods and wages of workers and were not driven by an emphasis on profit and self-interest. But today we have a government that has cutting workers' pay firmly in its DNA. Remember we had the former finance minister noting this as a design feature of the government's approach to wages policy.

The vision outlined in these bills for Australia is one where millions of Australian struggle to pay their bills and take care of their family, where millions of people are left behind. Remember it was Labor and the union movement that pushed hard on a wage subsidy last year. We got JobKeeper, but the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support that program. Even before COVID-19, the growth in insecure work and wage stagnation were major issues for Australian workers and our economy. Remember the government's IR bill, a bill that promoted casualisation and limiting the better off overall test. It's an absolute disgrace that this government expects workers to sacrifice more and more in their conditions when they've already lost so much. Rather than taking this opportunity to learn the lessons from COVID-19 and dealing with the twin problems of insecure work and flatlining wages, some of the measures contained in the government's proposed laws did the opposite. This government believes that Australians should be thankful for having jobs, regardless of the circumstances.

Labor, on the other hand, believes that Australians who work hard at their jobs should be rewarded, not have their pay and hours cut. This place and this budget shouldn't make it harder for them to get ahead. We should make it easier. This is a government led by a Prime Minister who refuses to take responsibility. He doesn't hold a hose, he says it's not a race, he's only interested in saying whatever it takes to score political points. In the meantime, working families pay the price for his failure to act and his failure to plan. We've been in this pandemic for more than a year, and the Prime Minister still can't get quarantine right and he still can't get vaccinations right. This budget doesn't get IR and skills right either. I ask the minister here, representing the minister for industrial relations: is this budget your government's answer to the problems of insecure and low-paid work? Are these bills your answers to the skills crisis in Australia? What do you say to the workers of Australia trying to get ahead when their wages are forecast to be cut against inflation? And is this your thank you to the workers who are working hard to get us through the pandemic?

4:58 pm

Photo of Celia HammondCelia Hammond (Curtin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm happy to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 with respect to the Attorney-General portfolio. I note that the 2021-22 budget will provide more than $819 million to enhance legal and workplace services to support Australians. These investments are being made to ensure that our legal and justice system is accessible and efficient and our workplaces are fair, safe, productive and flexible. There are a number of initiatives in this budget and under this portfolio, but those which I seek the minister's further elaboration on are those which are directed primarily at women's safety in their homes, their communities and their workplaces. Women are more likely than men to be victims of family, domestic and sexual violence. As we have seen this year, physical and sexual abuse against women is not something that happens somewhere else. It is not limited by demographics, by suburbs, by professions. It can and does happen anywhere, and any time or anywhere it happens, it is wrong. According to official statistics and surveys undertaken by the ABS and other bodies over the last five years, on average one woman is killed every nine days in Australia, one in four women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from current or previous intimate partners since the age of 15 and approximately one in two women aged 18 and over have experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime. The COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, coincided with an onset or escalation of violence and abuse against women, with two-thirds of women who had experienced it during the pandemic saying that it had either started or escalated during this time. These statistics are dreadful. They are not acceptable. It is beyond time that we as a society—all of us, regardless of our gender—stand up to this and stop it.

In relation to violence and abuse in the home, this government is providing additional funding of $310 million through the National Legal Assistance Partnership, including $129 million in additional legal assistance funding to allow women's legal centres to help vulnerable women access justice; $60 million to provide dedicated legal assistance services for people with mental health issues; $83 million to enhance and expand the number and geographic coverage of family advocacy support services; $17 million for enhancements of domestic violence units and health justice partnerships, providing additional mental health specific funding for services to respond to growing needs of women in rural and remote areas; and $14 million to pilot legal assistance in family law in South Australia. The government is also making significant investments in the Family Court, $60 million worth, to reform family law case management in the federal family courts to deliver safe, child centred, supportive, accessible, timely and efficient decision-making.

With respect to the safety of women in the workplace, I note that the government announced its response to the Respect@Work report of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins on 8 April 2021 in releasing A roadmap for respect: preventing and addressing sexual harassment in Australia's workplaces. This response sets out the government's commitment to preventing and addressing sexual harassment and building a culture of respect in Australian workplaces by agreeing to in full, part or principle, or noting, all 55 recommendations. In the 2020-21 budget, $2.1 million was provided to fund the implementation of a number of initiatives, including the establishment of the Respect@Work Council. This budget builds on that, providing more than $15.3 million, including $7.3 million to support the council to implement a range of practical measures to address workplace sexual harassment and implement amendments to strengthen legislative and regulatory frameworks; $200,000 in intervention funding to continue targeted delivery of support for women on work related matters; $1.7 million for Comcare to deliver training in national forums on sexual harassment for Commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety inspectors; and $6 million to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the Australian Public Service Commission to strengthen public sector reporting on harassment, prevalence, prevention and response. As I said at the outset, this is not before time. I ask the minister to outline how these and other initiatives in the 2021-22 budget are addressing violence against women in the home, in the community and in workplaces.

5:03 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a few questions for the government under the general heading of 'Why is it that the Morrison government is doing all it can to prevent the establishment of a powerful, independent and properly resourced national anticorruption commission?' Is it correct that the previous Attorney-General, Mr Porter, before he was removed from his role, failed to deliver a national anticorruption commission, despite promising to establish such a body almost three years ago? Is it correct that nothing will change with the new Attorney-General because the Morrison government is terrified of what an independent anticorruption commission would reveal about this government's conduct over the eight long years that it has been in power? Is it correct that nothing will change with the new Attorney-General because the Morrison government, and the Prime Minister in particular, hate accountability? Is it correct that the Morrison government has spent almost three years finding excuses to delay the establishment of a national anticorruption commission and that these excuses will now continue until after the next election?

Can the minister, as the representative of the Attorney-General, confirm the evidence provided in estimates hearings by the Attorney-General's Department two weeks ago which made clear that there is now no possibility of a national anticorruption commission commencing operation in this term of government?

Can the minister confirm that the failure to establish a national anticorruption commission in this term is yet another example of the Morrison government being all announcement and zero delivery? Is it correct that the new Attorney-General, Senator Cash, is concerned that a national anticorruption commission could investigate her own conduct in relation to the illegal tip-off of a police raid on a union office that occurred from within her own office, and her subsequent refusal to cooperate with an Australian Federal Police investigation into that criminal activity?

Will the new Attorney-General continue to delay the establishment of a national anticorruption commission because she and the Morrison government are terrified of the many, many scandals that have occurred on their watch being investigated by such an independent body? Perhaps I can assist the minister in answering that question, with a few examples of the corruption and scandals that have occurred in recent years and that Mr Morrison has tried to sweep under the carpet.

We could start with the sports rorts saga, in which the Auditor-General discovered that over $100 million of taxpayer funds had been unlawfully diverted into a slush fund for the Liberal Party's re-election campaign. This was a scandal with an email trail that led directly to the Prime Minister's office, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Prime Minister has desperately sought to bury the scandal with a secret inquiry by his own former chief of staff, who now heads his department.

We could mention the Leppington Triangle land scandal, in which the Morrison government paid a Liberal Party donor some $33 million for land that was worth only around $3 million, which the Acting Prime Minister still inexplicably thinks was a bargain. With that kind of economic brilliance around the cabinet table is it any wonder that the Morrison government has driven Australia into a trillion dollars of debt with very little to show for it? This is something that the minister at the table might be able to provide particular advice on, given his role in that obscene waste of taxpayers' money. And who could forget the minister for energy's imbecilic attempt to embarrass the Lord Mayor of Sydney by using a forged document with falsified City of Sydney travel expenditure figures?

I don't really have time today to go on listing all of the scandals that the Morrison government has been involved in. I note that these examples are only drawn from the scandals that we know about from the work of the independent but sadly underfunded Auditor-General and the work of investigative journalists. We have no doubt that there are other scandals that a powerful and independent anticorruption commission would uncover.

Now that the government has been dragged kicking and screaming to admit that a national anticorruption commission is needed and has at last, years late, released draft legislation for such a body, can the minister, as the representative of the Attorney-General, explain why the model proposed by the Morrison government has been excoriated by virtually every integrity expert and legal authority in the country as a sham that fails virtually every test for an effective anticorruption commission? Does the Attorney-General agree with Anthony Whealy QC, former judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court?

5:08 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I respond to a number of the issues that have been raised in this chamber today. Let me deal firstly with the member for Isaacs, who ran through his standard list of talking points. The fact, though, as he is very well aware, is that the Morrison government is delivering on our commitment to establish a Commonwealth integrity commission. It will be the lead body in our successful multiagency anticorruption framework.

We recently concluded a nationwide consultation process on the legislation, with 330 written submissions and 46 consultations, meetings and roundtables. The government will consider the feedback received through this extensive consultation process to inform further refinement of the draft legislation before it's introduced to the parliament. We have put in place funding for the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, with $106.7 million committed in the 2019-20 budget, in addition to the $40.7 million of funding for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which will transfer to the commission a total of $147.4 million. The member for Isaacs did put out at least one highly misleading media release that I saw, but the fact is that the funding is there.

Of course, we've taken into consideration a number of very important design matters. It's clear from the design of the scheme that only the most serious types of criminal conduct are to be considered by the Commonwealth Integrity Commission. We do not want to have public resources wasted on referrals which are purely for political purposes, like the member for Isaacs' nine referrals to the Australian Federal Police. Now, you may ask: how many of those nine referrals were successful? Was it nine? Was it eight? Was it seven, six or five? Actually, the number is zero. That is nine wasteful political stunts by the member for Isaacs. We are not going to squander taxpayers' money to appeal to his apparently limitless appetite for empty political stunts. On the contrary, what we are doing is carefully designing the Commonwealth Integrity Commission so that it will be an appropriate and effective body, the lead body in Australia's successful multiagency anticorruption framework.

While we're talking about stale Labor Party talking points, the member for Bean rolled out the usual canard about wages growth that we hear from those on the other side. According to the International Labour Organization, the facts are that, over the period of the last year, COVID has had a dramatic impact on wages in just about every country. In the first half of 2020, monthly wages either fell or grew more slowly in two-thirds of countries as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Now, let's turn from that to see what has happened in Australia. The facts are very different to the stale Labor talking points trotted out by the member for Bean. The facts are that real wages have increased in Australia over the past year. So all this talk from the member for Bean is at odds with the fact that the wage price index grew by 1.5 per cent over the year to the March quarter 2021. The consumer price index was 1.1 per cent over the same period. Now, it's interesting to draw a historical contrast. In the period when the Labor Party were last in office, there was a cut to the real minimum wage in three out of their six years. The member for Bean wasn't here then, but he may want to go and look at the history.

By contrast, I'm asked some excellent and important questions, some substantial questions, by the member for Curtin, who brings to this place very serious experience in the whole area, certainly, of tertiary education but also of the law. She asked: how are we working through these issues in relation to women's safety? In the 2021 budget, we've delivered $85 million in additional funding for the family advocacy support service, which uses an integrated method of support to assist families to transition between and manage matters across both legal systems. It integrates frontline legal services with non-legal social supports in the court setting. This is all about delivering the best outcome for Australians who are caught up in these processes. This is a very unfortunate but regrettable necessity, so we are committing significant extra funding, particularly to support women experiencing family violence.

5:13 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the expenditure be agreed to. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could say yes to that, knowing that we could all sleep comfortably at night, knowing that there was an independent cop on the beat looking out for anticorruption in this place should there be something as extraordinary as, for example, an unfavourable ANAO report on departmental expenditure? Let's just contemplate for one moment the unthinkable happening. This, of course, is not a talking point; it is, in fact, an uncomfortable truth. Like a minister deliberately rorting a sporting fund program for electoral benefit or, good heavens, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications handing over nearly $30 million to a Liberal donor for a parcel of land near the Western Sydney airport when it was worth barely $3 million, it is very uncomfortable indeed!

The problem, of course, is that there is no such cop on the beat. While there are anticorruption commissions in every state and territory in this nation, there is not one in our federal parliament. On 8 September, it will be 1,000 days since the Prime Minister promised this country an integrity commission, and what have we had since then?

First, we waited 690 days for no action at all. The Prime Minister sat on his hands and hoped that the public would forget, but I want to say to you that I did not forget.

I introduced the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020, a private member's bill, into this House in October last year. Immediately following that, in November, the Attorney-General published a dud draft bill. He sent it out for consultation for the third time in as many years and received hundreds of submissions, as the minister acting for the Attorney-General just pointed out. But those submissions found that the bill was, in fact, unsalvageable; it was dead on arrival. The government received 333 submissions to this round of consultations on this dud bill. Analysis from the Centre for Public Integrity found that none of the 333 submissions supported the bill as drafted. In fact, only two of the 333 submissions had anything positive to say at all, and it's pretty clear why: exclusive private hearings for MPs and the Public Service, referrals restricted to inner-circle bureaucrats and an impossibly narrow definition of 'corrupt conduct'. Can the minister representing the Attorney-General accept that this bill needs a total rewrite?

It's pretty clear the government has no intention, really, to deliver on this election promise. With the rolling scandals coming out of parliament on both sides, it's obvious to see why it doesn't want to deliver. MPs are sent to parliament to deliver for the people they represent, not to play games, not just to deliver talking points and not to deliver stunts but to give good, honest, decent legislation. They're not here to stall, obfuscate and sit on their hands. That's why I wrote my own robust consensus bill with good MPs on both sides. That's why it's sitting on the paper right now. It's really time we got it done.

In 53 short days, we'll be in an election season. I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: given that it's taken almost 1,000 days for you to get this dud proposal this far, how can the Australian people believe you when you say that you hope to pass a bill before December? We already know that the government's bill would be rejected in the Senate, and we also know that good MPs on both sides would find it very difficult to vote for any government bill in the House. So will the minister admit that it has no chance of passing its own bill and get out of the way so the parliament can pass a consensus bill, like the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020?

A bill really needs to be able to deliver for what it is intended to do, and the government's proposal limits referrals to inner-circle bureaucrats. It does very little to uncover corruption, let alone inspire the public that is trying to hold its officials to account. It's critical that an integrity commission has the power to initiate its own investigations. Where there's smoke, there is often fire. An integrity commission needs to be able follow that thread, and it needs to be funded to do so, but there is no money and there is no line item in this year's budget.

The question is that the expenditure be agreed to. I'd love to assist the government in spending some money on a decent integrity commission. I'm committed to working with the government to do so. I really hope it does, and I really hope it gets on with it. I don't want to go to an election without an integrity commission and nor do the Australian public.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

5:18 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to ask the minister a series of questions in relation to the expenditure of this very important portfolio. Before I do, I acknowledge the letter he sent to me today in relation to RAAF Base Woomera and ADF training facilities, explaining exactly why those kinds of facilities would not suitable for quarantining. I appreciate the comprehensive response I received today. If required, I will reply. But certainly that response explains why there may not be options in relation to those two particular locations.

It's clear to see, when you look at the issues around Defence asset contracts and when you listen to the commentators—and, indeed, the government—about rising tensions in the region, this portfolio, which is always a critical one, is perhaps increasingly critical in line with insights by experts, by national security agencies and by others about the need for us to have a sufficient defence capability to defend this nation. The minister and the government have recently, I think it is fair to say, elevated the language. They have certainly focused upon some of the challenges. The federal opposition shares the concerns of the government in relation to ensuring that we have sufficient capability to defend our citizens and this nation—to defend our sovereignty. It's absolutely critical that we execute the contracts we enter into, with primes and others, in order to provide the defence assets required for ADF personnel, and for that reason I want to touch upon some of those.

I'm also mindful of the fact that, whilst the minister has been a minister for a long time and has been a member of the National Security Committee of cabinet, he has been in this portfolio for a relatively short time and is dealing with a whole series of challenges. I think it's important to note that there have been six defence ministers since 2013, and there are some very significant questions that need to be answered in relation to the largest defence asset contracts in our history.

With the first question I have I'll exhaust the five minutes, as I do understand this process and I won't get another go. I don't expect the minister to be able to answer all the questions today, and I would appreciate him taking those questions on notice if he needs to. Firstly, what does the future hold for the Future Submarines program? Can the minister confirm that, due to the very long delays in the French developed Future Submarines program, the Prime Minister is having what some have described as crisis talks with the French President as we speak? Last week in estimates the Defence secretary disclosed that the government was considering prudent contingencies—he also described it as plan B—for the Future Submarines program. So the question we have for the minister is: what are those prudent contingencies, those things contemplated by government to get this contract back on track? The reality is that at the moment there is an overspend, or a blowout, of up to $40 billion on this defence contract, the time line for which has now blown out by a decade. What does the minister say about those problems and what will the government do about them? Will the government fulfil the contract, curtail the contract or cancel the contract? It's really important that we understand exactly what is happening. Of course, if it is to proceed, will be minister give an undertaking that the contract will ensure a minimum of 60 per cent local industry content over the life of this contract, noting all of the comments made by previous ministers that that was going to happen?

The second question is in relation to the report in The Australian last week that there had been a decision by government to have a life-of-type extension for the six Collins class vessels. Has that been taken to cabinet? Is it a government decision? If so, when was it given the first pass and final pass approvals? What will be the case in relation to full-cycle docking of the Collins class vessels? When will that occur? When will the decision as to where full-cycle docking will take place be made? Of course, there are 700 nervous workers in South Australia not knowing their lot, and indeed Western Australia also anticipate that they may well be beneficiaries of a transfer of that process of full-cycle docking of the Collins class vessels.

5:23 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To keep Australians safe and to create jobs—these are the two primary objectives that Australians want from the Morrison government and that the Morrison government is delivering via the defence spending in this budget. I'm proud to be part of the government that is meeting these very important objectives, because we know that the global environment is changing, it is increasing volatile, and that now, more than ever, we as a nation must be safeguarded against any future unprecedented threats. I know that Minister Dutton and Minister Price are both acutely aware of the changing global conditions, and this government is arming our serving men and women with absolutely everything they need to protect our national interests, Australia's sovereign interests. There are no two ministers who would be better placed to steward Australia right now and into the future, backing our exceptional Defence Force every step of the way.

In my electorate of Ryan, we are the very proud home of the Gallipoli Barracks. We've had the pleasure of having both Minister Price and Minister Dutton visit the Gallipoli Barracks and speak to the troops. It was recently one of the first stops Minister Dutton undertook when he took over as Defence minister, and he spent a great deal of time talking to our serving men and women there. From the conversations that I had with them, as well those that I had with him with those serving personnel, I know that they know that this government has their back, that the Minister for Defence has their back and that we are here to support them as they protect Australia's interests.

In Ryan we have not only serving personnel at the Enoggera Barracks but also many veterans and their families—they keep their families in the area. They all make incredible contributions to our local community, and I really want to thank them for their service.

Can I take a moment to mention that serving defence personnel from the Enoggera Barracks via the 7th Brigade were also a very big part of Operation COVID-19 Assist and to thank them very much for what they have done to support the government's frontline efforts against COVID-19.

Increasing defence funding has a very real and direct impact on the electorate of Ryan. Our government has met and exceeded our commitment to raise defence spending to two per cent of GDP. Unlike when Labor were in office, when they looked to defence for the first opportunity they could to cut funds to fund their other reckless spending, we won't do that. In fact, we have made a rock-solid commitment to the Australian people to make sure that defence is properly resourced. It's a fact that the last Labor government hacked so much money out of defence that Australia's defence spending was at its lowest level since 1938, an absolutely shameful statistic that Labor should not be proud of—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And I know that they're not proud of it by the interjections that I can hear. Australians would be very, very concerned if they were facing today's world with that level of catastrophically low defence spending from the Labor members opposite. Luckily, this government, as I said, with this budget is delivering increased defence spending, so we will have a well resourced defence force which will ensure that we can protect Australia's sovereign interest.

We're investing $55 billion to modernise land capability over the decade. New investments are planned in strike weapons, watercraft, helicopters, logistics, resilience, robotics and autonomous systems. Importantly, at Enoggera Barracks in the Ryan electorate, we're investing over $100 million in the local economy for the construction of vehicle workshops, hardstands and shelters at the Gallipoli Barracks to support the modernisation of the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force vehicle fleet.

Minister Price and I were able to be out of there to see the Boxer vehicle, one of the first Boxer vehicles to come across and arrive in Australia and arrive at the Gallipoli Barracks. A lot of that work and investment in the Gallipoli Barracks will go into supporting the new Boxer vehicle, which is being built not too far away from the Ryan electorate just across the river.

Lendlease, in addition, will deliver new facilities under the Land 121 Stage 5B as a continuation of works under the Land 121 Stage 2A. This investment will deliver the supporting infrastructure for the sustainment and maintenance of the Australian Defence Force's Land 121 vehicle fleet. Not only does this back our ADF but it provides an injection into our local economy. Lendlease is committed to achieving its target of 85 per cent of local workforce participation, which means more local jobs for our community in the Ryan electorate. So, with those introductory remarks, I ask the minister if he will further outline how the Morrison government is boosting Australia's sovereign capability through the spending in the Defence portfolio?

5:28 pm

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

I wish to draw the chamber's attention to our Australian government's interpretation of the meaning of 'Australian' content. You see, when it comes to defence work you don't have to be doing defence work in Australia. To be counted as doing defence work in Australia you could in fact be going about your business running a hotel, teaching French or booking flights. In fact, in Australian defence work you don't have to be an Australian company or even from New Zealand to be doing defence work as an Australian. You just have to look at the others that are included. You don't actually even need to be an Australian incorporated entity, even if owned entirely by an overseas entity. You merely need to be a foreign business registered in Australia. But you don't even have to be in Australia to be doing Australian defence work. Australian nationals who happen to be working in France on the future submarine project will count towards NOVAL group's promise to spend at least 60 per cent of its contract with local Australian industry. They don't even go here. These are all features of the latest details to emerge from the amendments to the strategic partnering agreement, the SPA, for future submarines. Yet this critical document, obtained via freedom of information, has kept secret the definition of 'Australian contractual expenditure'. That bit is redacted. It says a lot about the Morrison government, when it wants to keep that definition secret.

We all know this just continues the government's view that hotels, French language lessons and security guards constitute Australian defence industry content. But if they beat that 60 per cent milestone, or the redacted milestones that we can't actually see in the SPA along the way, it would appear that NOVAL group will receive a bonus. But what happens if NOVAL, or other international primes in contracts that we haven't seen, fail to meet their local industry spend obligations? Is there a penalty? Is there a consequence? None that's evident, unless again that's also in the redacted content of the agreement. Maybe it's just a slap on the wrist. Maybe there's no financial implication whatsoever. Maybe there's even a pat on the back from the Minister for Defence Industry or the Minister for Defence. We don't know because the government is keeping all that secret. 'We don't want to talk about it at all.'

Back to the 'they don't even go here' problem. The SPA reveals that local industry activity value includes the direct labour cost of Australians temporarily working in France. But what is temporary: a week, a month, a year? Is temporary from now until 2035, when the first sub will be in the water allegedly, or working through until the last sub in 2054? Temporary, indeed. Does this mean that the first or more submarines are actually now being planned to be built in France? Hundreds of workers in the defence industries in shipyards across the country, particularly in Osborne and Henderson, are hanging out for this work. But they remain in limbo while the federal government drags its feet and second-guesses itself and its defence department on a variety of projects in terms of scope, timing and the use or the development of Australian industry capability. And then, of course, there's always the confidential plan B that we heard about in estimates.

This Liberal government has proven time and time again it doesn't support Australian companies doing Australian defence industry projects. At the Land Forces exposition a couple of weeks ago I met a Western Australian company, Chironix, that was earmarked to receive $1.2 million in funding from the US government for its involvement in an awesome project, Project Simpson. All that the US government has been asking is for the Australian government to contribute about $800,000. I had more conversations, more than I can probably count, about Australian businesses that are doing excellent work in supply chains for other forces, supplying the Americans or the British, but fighting with one arm tied behind their back because they can't demonstrate that they're getting any work out of Australian defence. They can't point to their local work. It seems completely illogical, and so I ask the minister: why is it that foreign countries are supporting Australian SMEs better than the Australian government? Why hasn't the government joined Project Simpson? What is the definition of 'Australian contractual expenditure' under the future submarine SPA? Why is the detail of what constitutes this Australian content or, indeed, any penalties for not meeting that obligation being kept secret? What else does the government have to hide?

5:33 pm

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

I rise to support this government, a government that is critical to building Australia's sovereign defence industry, a government inclusive of two essential commitments: keeping more Australians in jobs and backing small business in the defence industry. These are the ingredients for building the strongest defence industry the country has ever seen. We are living in increasingly uncertain times, both at home and abroad. Australia should and must prioritise its own interests, and that is exactly what the Morrison government is doing. We are investing $270 billion into strengthening Australian sovereign defence capabilities over the next decade. Currently, 15,000 businesses and 70,000 Australians are employed in our defence industry. This is tens of thousands of men and women serving our country admirably; tens of thousands protecting Australia's national interests. These numbers will increase thanks to our $270 billion plan. In a rapidly changing global environment, we are ensuring the men and women of the Australian Defence Force have the critical capability they need to keep Australians safe and secure.

The Morrison government has already proven more than capable of getting on with the job when it comes to delivering for this industry. I'm interested to hear what the other side of the House has to say today, especially after their track record of sitting idle for six years. Labor gutted $18 billion from the defence budget. Labor did not commission a single Australian ship. Imagine the thousands of lost jobs on top of this and the lost opportunities for the defence industry. Defence was a casualty to Labor. It's not enough to just talk about the defence of our nation; you need to have a plan. You need to execute and invest in that plan. Australia must be an active and assertive advocate for stability, security and sovereignty in our immediate Pacific region.

When it comes to jobs, there is no shortage, thanks to the Morrison government, with at least 15,000 new jobs in the Australian defence shipbuilding. This is just the start, with a plan to build more ships, create more jobs and create more opportunities for small business. This will continue into decades ahead under the Morrison government. The Morrison government is giving small businesses a key role in the defence supply chain. The important work of our Defence Force can only succeed with the help of the thousands of Australians and Australian businesses working in our defence industries. Why? Because small business is the backbone of our economy, and by backing small businesses we are investing in local jobs, jobs that are crucial in keeping Australians safe.

The five-pillar approach to enhance support for small businesses is crucial. These pillars represent the Australian defence industry first. For the first time ever, it's this government that is putting the policies in place to make it easier for local tradies and suppliers. For the first time ever, we are easing the load for the regions to get involved in defence projects. In Queensland and the Northern Territory alone we have seen companies tender for defence infrastructure work using over 80 per cent of their local workforce from the nearby local region, and it's more important than ever that we keep Australians at work.

The Morrison government is determined to see that Australia has the capacity to build at home what it needs to defend our nation, with more jobs and more opportunities for our skilled workers who so valiantly dedicate their careers to keeping peace in our region. My home state of Queensland is headed towards being Australia's front line for the defence industry, home to Townsville, which is Australia's largest garrison city. With this, I would like to ask the Morrison government: how is it supporting Queensland to deliver this gold standard? Can the minister outline the Morrison government's ongoing commitment to strengthening the Queensland defence industry, and how is it going?

5:38 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Six defence ministers in eight years. Goldfish have a longer life expectancy than defence ministers under this government. If it weren't tragic it would be funny, but it is tragic because this is leading to massive dysfunction and mismanagement at Russell defence headquarters.

Let's look at the facts—because we get plenty of bragging from the government—evident in their own budget papers. First off, for all their talk about spending, they have cut $10.7 billion from the defence acquisition budget since the 2016 white paper. $10.7 billion promised to be spent on acquiring defence equipment since 2016 has been cut from the defence budget. Secondly, we have 28 major defence projects running cumulatively 70 years late across 28 major defence projects. We also have 19 major projects that are $6.4 billion over budget. I remember the Minister for Defence Industry in late 2019 making a commitment in this debate that her performance would be judged on three things: on time, on budget, and on spec. My first question is: when is she resigning? She has clearly failed: $10.7 billion cut from the budget, 28 projects running 70 years late, and $6 billion of budget blow-outs on specific projects.

What are some the lowlights? We have submarines running 10 years late and $40 million over budget. Future frigates: not the first piece of steel has been cut, but we have seen a budget increase of 50 per cent. Only recently we established that there is already a schedule blow-out. The first ship is now running two years late. It was scheduled to be in service in the late 2020s; now it will be the end of 2031. Very concerningly, the last frigate is now running six years late. It was due to be in service in 2038; now it will be 2044—a six-year delay. The MRH-90, the backbone of our helicopter fleet, is 7½ years late. It was initiated by the Howard government, stuffed up then and now stuffed up by this government. We have established that it can't fire weapons when troops are roping out of the helicopter. We saw a catastrophic tail rotor failure that nearly destroyed one of them. The cargo hook took years to fix. The machine gun mount needed three different versions to be able to work. And now they're spending $37 million on leasing helicopters from Toll because 27 MRH-90s were grounded because—get this—they didn't have enough door sliding rails. This is a joke. We have also got Battlefield Airlifter aircraft that can't fly into battlefields—a minor problem. We've got patrol boats that use substandard Chinese aluminium, therefore delaying the project very significantly. The Jindalee Operational Radar Network, JORN, is 1½ years late. This is a series of bungles after bungles, because we have seen six defence ministers in eight years.

We have also seen major mismanagement in sustainment—the key thing about giving our ADF troops, our sailors, soldiers, and air people, the equipment and the availability they need. Here, I'm sad to say, we've seen a $5 billion blow-out in the sustainment budget. This government is so incompetent it's spending $5 billion more than planned on sustainment. What's worse, even though they are spending $5 billion more on sustaining our ageing, obsolete equipment because they can't get the new equipment into service, the performance of our equipment is well under par. Our C-27J Spartans are flying 65 per cent fewer hours than planned. The armed reconnaissance helicopter is flying 38 per cent fewer hours than planned. The Joint Strike Fighter is flying 30 per cent fewer hours than planned. Our amphibious fleet is available for 22 per cent fewer days than planned and our major combatants for 11 per cent fewer days than planned.

These are the actions. Ignore the cheap talk. Ignore the cheap bragging about how much they are spending. It is all about performance—making sure our troops have the equipment they need when they need it and that our taxpayers get value for money. On every single marker, this government is failing the Australian people and failing the troops. They don't have the troops' backs; they are failing the troops and they are failing taxpayers through their incompetence and mismanagement.

5:43 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, can I say that I am very proud of all Australians who are working on our Defence capability projects, whether they live in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales or anywhere in Australia. There is also another category of Australians, who are living in France and working on our very, very important submarine project. I'm very proud of those young people. I had the opportunity to meet a couple of them only two weeks ago in my office. I'm very impressed with Naval Group, because they decided that we do need to train our own so that we have the know-how and the know-why. So it is very disrespectful to talk about our young people in this way, who are travelling from Adelaide to live in Cherbourg. I went there a few years ago and met a group of some 40 Australians, mainly from South Australia. They are key to the success of our project. I would caution those on the other side not to be disrespectful to young Australians who are carrying out a very, very important role of ours.

It is a great pleasure to be here this evening. I thank the members for Bonner and Ryan for their questions this evening. This government holds as sacrosanct our two most sacred duties as a government: to keep Australians safe and to protect our national interest. This means ensuring that Australians locally build and sustain the ships, the vehicles and the aircraft that the men and women of the ADF need to keep us safe. It means creating more jobs, backing Australian businesses and keeping the wheels of defence industry turning. As we know, this is more than just about the programs like the Hunter class frigates, the Boxers or the F-35s; this is also about ensuring our ADF personnel have the world-class infrastructure they need to train the way they need to fight.

Queensland is indeed at the core of the Morrison government's pledge to build stronger defence industry and defence capability over the next decade. Defence infrastructure in particular underpins this government's commitment and focus to support defence industry. Last week the Minister for Defence and I announced over $100 million worth of infrastructure spending in Brisbane. We are very proud of that. This will deliver world-class infrastructure to support the ADF's next-gen armoured logistics vehicles. The Brisbane works will be a major win for local SMEs, with local workforce participation expected to reach 85 per cent. Additional supporting infrastructure is being developed around the nation, in Perth and Hobart, for a total program value of $150 million.

In Queensland the Morrison government has created the environment that is allowing defence industry to flourish. In early May the Prime Minister and I announced $155 million worth of infrastructure upgrades at HMAS Cairns. The upgrades will provide work for up to 180 people on the project, with a target of some 10 per cent Indigenous employment through the program. This project also has a target of 80 per cent of subcontract packages being awarded to the local industry in the greater Cairns region. Given the issues that they're experiencing with tourism, I can assure you that those jobs are very welcome in the broader Cairns region.

These projects are part of the almost $870 million that the Morrison government is releasing for estate works to the marketplace to bolster defence industry recovery. This includes additional investment of $300 million in the national Estate Works Program. That includes significant work in regional Australia. These are great wins for the workers and for the businesses of Queensland which support Australia's defence capability. As a regional member, I know that there are many regional businesses included in those projects. I'm very proud of that.

As I've said a number of times, defence industry is more than just shipbuilders, engineers and cyberprofessionals. Our defence industry is also the local tradies who help deliver the infrastructure that the ADF needs and the community businesses that support the bases right around the country. The Morrison government is creating the environment that is allowing defence industry to flourish. Proudly, the $5.2 billion Boxer armoured vehicle program will create 330 new jobs at the state-of-the-art Rheinmetall Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence, which we call MILVEHCOE. The MILVEHCOE facility will also deliver the next generation of protected logistics vehicles for the ADF. These same vehicles will benefit from that $150 million infrastructure I mentioned previously.

I'm very proud of our $270 billion investment in our defence capability. We will never be lectured to by Labor—cutting the budget, cutting projects and not making sure there are enough jobs for Australians. We on this side know what we're doing. Things are under control, and we're very proud of it.

5:48 pm

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

I appreciate the gags coming from the Minister for Defence Industry. I want to pick up on a few points she just made and in particular any imputation that might arise from her remarks in respect of the good work that is being done by Australians on behalf of the defence forces in their defence industry work. No issue is ever taken with the work that is being done. I have to say that has certainly been my experience whilst I have been in the portfolio, both in meeting with the men and women of the Defence Force and the men and women in our Australian defence industry businesses around the country. Not only do they do good work and are firmly committed to the work that they do for the benefit of the nation but they bring great insight, technological development and innovation in the work that they do.

It must be said and I think acknowledged that Australian defence industry businesses are amongst the greatest and best employers of our veterans. That is something to be commended and expanded upon. The opportunity of ensuring that, of the much-trumpeted $270 billion to be spent over the next decade on defence capability for Australia, there's increased spending in Australia is something that will enable the employment of more veterans and more people in these defence industry businesses. It will also ensure the development of a greater and an advanced manufacturing sector here in Australia, one where we don't just build things or put things together but where we also develop that technology and intellectual property and we're involved in the engineering and the drafting. That is fundamentally important. As I mentioned earlier, it is so fundamentally important that there is transparency around the concept of what constitutes Australian contractual expenditure when it comes to the SPA with Naval Group for the development of the future submarine project, and in similar contractual terms in these major multibillion-dollar programs.

We don't take issue with the spending of multiple billions of dollars on defence capability for our nation. We desperately need it. There is a concern, as the member for Shortland just pointed out, that many of these projects are slipping not just in terms of cost but also in terms of time. This government has over recent months made a lot of the fact that it sees the chances of armed conflict increasing in our region and that it may happen sooner than we had otherwise anticipated. The force structure review goes to this exact point. Yet not only are these major capabilities more than a decade away in their planning time frames alone but those time lines are also slipping and slipping and getting further away. That is not just of concern to us on this side of the House; it is of concern, I'm sure, to the Defence Force, it is of concern to defence industry—and it is one that they have spoken to me about—and it is of concern to many strategic observers in Australia.

As we've gone through the last 18 months or so of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of being self-reliant has never been greater. We as a nation need to make sure that we are investing everything that we can in developing that self-reliance, that we're identifying the gaps in defence industry and that we're identifying where we're not currently doing the work here in Australia but we could be. Government should be supporting that happening and understanding what those gaps are. One of the key things to come out of the government's review of the CDIC was that the CDIC didn't know the scope of defence industry here in this country, yet the one thing that the CDIC is supposed to do is know the scope of defence industry here in this nation so that it can better connect those businesses.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 17 : 52 to 18 : 07

6:07 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor believes this budget, in terms of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, is really a case of marketing, mismanagement and missed opportunities. We have a situation where the Department of Veterans' Affairs needs to be rebuilt. It's so obvious from the Productivity Commission report, which said that, for veterans, navigating the department is complex and difficult and the whole claims process is really difficult. The government seems in this budget to be throwing around some money to fix political problems of its own creation. There are some stopgap, bandaid solutions rather than the delivery of fundamental reform, and the government is yet to respond fully to the Productivity Commission recommendations.

We do welcome the funding for additional staff, but we'd like to know when the additional staff are going to be employed in the Department of Veterans' Affairs. We note there is another $98.5 million in the budget for an extra 440 staff. How long will it take to employ those staff—over what period? At what level does the minister expect those staff to be employed?

We do know after Senate estimates that the same figures seem to come up all the time: 40 per cent of Department of Veterans' Affairs staff are labour hire workers and 50 per cent of the frontline staff dealing with veterans and their claims are labour hire. When are those percentages, in relation to frontline services as well as to the whole department, going to come down, Minister? We really need a better resourced DVA and faster claims processing, and we really need to crack down on labour hire to guarantee 'same job, same pay' and allow people more secure Public Service jobs, ending inappropriate temporary contracts. One of the things that is quite clear is that there is a big problem in terms of temporary workforce in the department. I'd like to know, Minister: How many of the employees that are working at the Department of Veterans' Affairs are on temporary contracts? How many are casual? How many are working on a full-time basis?

Minister, the government is really not using its position as a model employer to give a good example to the workforce generally, including the private sector. The government should only be utilising non-permanent employment where it's absolutely essential. Minimising permanent employee numbers in the Department of Veterans' Affairs is simply not the way to go. I want to congratulate and thank the men and women in the Department of Veterans' Affairs as well as the men and women who serve in the ADF for the work they do. A job in the Public Service is really critical, and delivering service to our men and women is really, really important.

A DVA labour hire worker recently told the union:

I have been a casual for five years and now I have to reapply for my job because the company that employs me has lost its contract with DVA. If I don't get employed I'll have no redundancy pay or any leave paid out. If the new contractor employs me then it just shows I'm not a casual. This sort of thing is happening to more of us all the time. We are doing permanent work and should have secure jobs.

Minister, it's really critical that workers like that who work in the department are employed in the Australian Public Service.

The other thing that's quite clear from what people tell me—and I get this wherever I go, whether it's in Tweed Heads, Townsville, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere I visit—is that the waiting times are up to a year for payments or even sometimes for just a claim to be allocated to a delegate. When is that going to be addressed, Minister? It's an absolute disgrace, and this government should hang its head in shame.

What is the government going to do to fix the delays, denials and dysfunctions in the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and how many more people are going to be in a position where they are going to have issues that affect their mental health? That's been the result of many, many inquiries we've had, including coronial inquests where people have said their experience with the Department of Veterans' Affairs has impacted on their mental health, with issues of suicidal ideation and others. I could quote many, many inquiries and many, many coronial inquests in which that has been said. This is a really critical issue to address. We thank those people who have been involved in that.

We note the government has been dragged kicking and screaming into a royal commission into veteran suicide. It's really important, Minister, for you to take a systemic approach to the royal commission. I'm asking if you intend to do that, because certainly what we've seen in terms of the themes has been an individualised approach. We're asking, Minister, that you look at a systemic approach that deals with the challenges of the Department of Veterans' Affairs in the royal commission.

6:12 pm

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In the little bit over two years since I've been elected to this place, I've seen a lot of change. Put the COVID-19 pandemic change aside; there is also the change that we've seen in our international geopolitical situation. Along with the Defence 2020 Strategic Update, we've seen the epicentre become the centre of the Indo-Pacific region. We've seen a $270 billion spend, the largest since the Second World War, on maintaining our defensive posture in that centre of the Indo-Pacific region. But at the centre of that huge record spend are people: those brave men and women who literally raise their hands in defence of our nation. They go to a recruiting office, raise their right hand and swear, by oath or affirmation, that they will defend Australia, its people, its government, its Queen and heirs and successors according to law, so help me God. Once they make that commitment then they give the prime of their life to defending our nation. We as a nation need to stand by them and we need to make a commitment to them, because their situation has also changed. It's that change, Minister, that I'd like to speak about this evening.

We've seen over the last two years that the volume of claims has more than doubled from around 50,000 in 2017-18 to more than 121,000 in 2019-20. Over this time, the government has continually supplemented DVA's resourcing to address the increased workload, providing more than $54 million over two years of increased staffing. Building on this investment, the 2021-22 budget includes an additional $98½ million to provide DVA with a significant increase in staffing to address the backlog of claims and manage the increased workload. This funding will see an increase of more than 440 positions, with a significant proportion being allocated to claims processing. This is important. We need to get onto their claims and expedite them. We need to help them make that transition from the big family that they had in the military and that loyal commitment that they made to the defence of our nation. We need to stand by them once they exit defence. This spend that I talk about is the largest single increase in DVA resourcing in decades. It reinforces what this government continually invests in, and that is veterans' support and putting veterans—and, more importantly, veterans and their families—first. This is important.

I also want to talk about some of the additional considerations that we've made as a government. The fact is that we've helped veterans transition and translate their skills, their knowledge and the qualifications that they earned in the military into the civilian world, making their transition from the defence family into the civilian population easier. We've also invested money in trying to help families along the way, because families play an important part of that transition as the veteran makes that important leap from the big military to the big civilian world. Minister, can you please advise how many additional resources were funded as part of that $98½ million for the Department of Veterans' Affairs? Will these additional resources directly assist with the current backlog of claims? I want to know, and I think Australia needs to know, whether this money is going to trickle down and be spent at the coalface, where it's really needed. Is it going to reduce claims and claim times? Is it going to help veterans? Is it going to help their families? Are we going to do the right thing as a government? Are we going to do the right thing as a nation?

6:17 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I join my colleague the member for Blair in bringing to the attention of the Minister for Defence Personnel a range of issues that appeared with a concerning regularity during the estimates hearings we had recently. A well-trained and motivated workforce is an ongoing issue for any large organisation, and we fully comprehend the extra layers of complexity when that workforce involves members of the Australian Defence Force and the public servants who support them.

The latest defence budget brief of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, known as ASPI, points out that, according to Defence's latest workforce census—this is Defence's own census done in March of this year—the external, contracted workforce is now larger than any other service: Navy, Army, Air Force or APS. We have more contractors than people in uniform. How does the minister justify this extraordinary statistic? ASPI pointed out that many of these contractors are doing the work of uniformed personnel or public servants and that, in some cases, Defence is using these workers on a permanent basis just to help run projects. Minister, how do you justify having permanent contractors like this? We understand the cost of the contractor workforce in 2019-20 was $1.5 billion. ASPI has estimated this is costing Defence $1.1 billion more than if these workers were public servants. How does the minister justify this exorbitant cost? Does he think this represents value for money and a responsible use of taxpayers' money? Does the minister concede that the government's arbitrary Public Service cap is forcing Defence to spend more money to employ almost 33,000 external contractors just to plug the gaps in skills and capability?

Does he believe this exploding external-contractor cost is sustainable over time? And, does the high number of contractors risk deskilling and, more to the point, demoralising Defence's own workforce through high turnover? People who took that pledge—what is the department doing to address this? On page 24 of the portfolio budget statement, it states:

A major revision will be undertaken to produce a new Defence Strategic Workforce Plan looking out to 2040—

When are we likely to see the plan, Minister, and will it address the hollowing out of areas like CASG who rely heavily on external contractors? How will you address the brain drain of skilled ADF and APS personnel who find it more financially rewarding to be part of this ever-expanding external workforce? Where is the plan, Minister?

When it comes to the ADF workforce in recent years, the latest Defence annual report shows that in 2019-20 Defence only met 93 per cent of permanent workforce recruitment targets. They missed by seven per cent. Could you imagine if a soldier missed by seven per cent? That person would be out on their ear.

Also, we know that Defence has failed to meet its 2016 Defence white paper recruitment targets every year since 2015-16. You've missed them every year! You can't hit a target for love nor money. Luckily the soldiers in the Australian ADF are a lot better than you lot trying to run the show. What are you going to do about this? Are you on track to meet the white paper target of around 62,400? Is the new defence workforce strategy still due later this year? Can you tell us how many personnel will be in this new plan? Is the government confident Defence will have enough people to undertake the new workforce plan to operate the future force? All the capability in the world is absolutely useless if you don't have the people to operate it, and you certainly shouldn't be banging the drums of war if you don't have the people to follow through.

I'd like to address one other important thing with the minister, and I'm hoping he's paying close attention. During a period when close contact was discouraged, when many of us were isolating or working from home, sexual assault within the Australian ADF reached an almost record high. The latest Defence annual report shows 161 sexual assault incidents were reported to military police, consistent with Defence's unpublished data. This is a shocking statistic. What are you doing about it, Minister? You need to be on the front foot about this and certainly many other equally as serious issues that are going on in Defence and seriously putting in jeopardy the security of Australians here at home and whilst they're serving in the broader world.

6:22 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to start by saying I'd like to thank the men and women who put on the uniform every day in service of this nation whilst they're still serving and of course when they transition out and become veterans. This is a grateful nation, and, for the debt that you've paid putting on that uniform, we can't thank you enough—thank you for that—and of course your families, the backbones of the ADF and the veteran community. Most people in this place I'm hoping now realise how important the family is in the veteran space as well as for our still serving men and women, because, without you, sometimes those difficult days become a lot more difficult.

I'd like to pay tribute to my good friend the member for Braddon, Gavin Pearce, who served many years in the Australian Defence Force and got all the way to RSM. It's really an honour to serve in this place with you. He's not a person that I call a colleague; he's a person that I call a brother. I would also like to congratulate you in the coming weeks—or coming days actually!—on having another child. I think that Phillipa is a good name for any young girl coming into this world. So thanks for coming here, Gav. The member for Braddon came here just for this. He's leaving tomorrow to go give birth to his child, so, thanks for that, Gav.

An honourable member: Assist!

Assist—well, he's got a very important role. Before I start I'd also like to thank my beautiful wife, Jenna, who nursed me through some very dark times in my life to get me to where I am now. There is an old saying that I don't agree with. The saying is: 'Behind every strong man is an even stronger woman,' but that's not the case in our relationship because my wife doesn't stand behind me; she stands beside me. So I'd like to thank you for that.

Our men and women of the ADF are very important to this nation. Through floods, through fires, through COVID, they play an integral part in ensuring that our nation is safe and protected. Our veterans put on different shirts at different times to go out and help in clean-ups from natural disasters and they get involved. Our ADF is owed a great deal of thanks, appreciation and support from any government and all levels of government. Our veteran community deserve the utmost respect, deserve the utmost support and deserve a parliament that works in lock step to support them. Whilst, in this place, we might have different views and we have different thoughts on how to get to the same end state, that end state is about supporting our men and women who have supported our nation. Whether you've never left this country and transitioned out or you've been wounded on operations and transitioned out, you need to be supported and we stand in lock step with you. I know the minister stands here today to answer these questions and we will stand together to support our men and women.

The community has developed veterans hubs throughout this country. There's one in Townsville, one in Braddon, one going in Sydney, another one in the Top End, in Darwin. A veterans hub is a one-stop shop for our veterans to get support. They're veteran led, not government-led. It's a safe place for our men and women who have transitioned out or are transitioning out and their families to go to get the supports they need, to hear from the ex-service organisations. I know in Townsville there are also employment opportunities. There's a place where you can sit down and get a coffee. There's a lecture room where you can get upskilled through training. This is what we like to see, some positivity and accountability in our space because, when you transition out, sometimes you transition into nothing. You have that feeling that you've flown out and you're forgotten about. I know that's not the case, and that's why the veteran wellbeing hubs are extremely important.

Minister, can you advise how much the government has committed to the wellbeing centres across the country and provide an update on the services that The Oasis centre in Townsville will provide to the veteran community? The Oasis Townsville I think will be the point that everyone looks at when they ask, 'What does a veteran wellness centre look like?' It looks like Townsville, it looks like The Oasis. It looks like what the team is doing there, and it will be fantastic to have centres like it throughout the country. Thank you to every veteran for contributing to this debate. Of course, I also thank the shadow minister for his contribution.

6:27 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, why is it that you have increased fees for occupational therapists and podiatrists, but for the second year in a row have failed to increase those fees for physiotherapists when many veterans require holistic allied health care? For two years in a row you've raised expectations in terms of support for health professionals like physiotherapists, and yet you've failed to deliver. In addition to that, Minister, why is there no funding in this budget to address the terrible plight of homelessness among veterans, where the estimates are that about one in 10 people who are living rough on the street or who are homeless are indeed veterans. We've seen RSL NSW and RSL Queensland raise the point that they have had an increase of nearly 25 per cent and 26 per cent respectively in demand for their housing and homelessness services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a huge issue and a significant factor in veteran suicide and mental health. Why has this not been addressed? Why has this been outsourced to the states? Why has the Morrison government shirked its responsibility and failed to show national leadership in terms of homelessness amongst our veteran community?

In addition to that, Minister, why are three of the veterans hubs so far behind what was announced? It was the intention of this government to make sure these veterans hubs were delivered by the end of 2020, but still three of the hubs have yet to be delivered and are expected perhaps by 2022. You've made commitments in the budget for two extra veterans hubs, one in Tasmania and one in South-East Queensland. Minister, the situation was that in 2016 in my electorate the then LNP candidate, Teresa Harding, made an unfunded commitment for a veterans hub in Ipswich near the RAAF base at Amberley, but your government has reneged on that commitment. In the 2019 election you made no commitment, and in this budget there's nothing. You've made a commitment now for a veterans hub in South-East Queensland.

I call on you, Minister, and I ask you: will you put that veterans hub near the RAAF base at Amberley in my electorate or will you just put it in coalition seats like Dickson, Ryan or other northern parts of Brisbane? Minister, it's really critical that you deal with this issue and address the issue of why these veterans hubs are so far behind. I call on you to answer these questions: why have you failed to deliver the veterans hub on time and where precisely will you deliver those veterans hubs you announced in the budget? The member for Herbert said one will be in Braddon. Is that true?

6:30 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Deputy Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm well aware that, due to divisions, the time to respond has been significantly diminished for the Veterans' Affairs portfolio, but I thought it was important to give members a chance to raise their concerns. For any concerns I haven't got the chance to address this evening, I will seek to respond in writing to the members. I want to thank all members for their contributions—the members for Herbert, Braddon, Paterson and Blair. Thank you for your contributions and the issues you've raised.

What concerns me a great deal right now is that there is a general tone to the debate in relation to our veteran community which runs the risk of doing more harm than good. I was in Townsville recently with the member for Herbert, and one of the veterans said to me, 'Hope is like oxygen to a drowning man.' The point he was making was that we need to actually provide hope to our veterans who may be struggling at any point in time. What this government has done consistently year after year is invest more in services to support our veterans and their families; not to force it upon them in a Canberra-centric approach but to work with those communities and ex-service organisations. We partner with them to look at new models of delivering service and look at ways of supporting those veterans who may require some assistance, whether it's with their physical health or their mental health.

The contrast in approach that we're starting to see now from those opposite alarms me. It alarms me that we are in a position where those opposite are tending towards negativity to the point of taking hope away from our veterans. I caution those opposite from that approach. The contrast in approach from those opposite needs to be called out. I call on those opposite to work constructively, as historically it has been a portfolio where people have worked in very constructive manner. Those opposite may take exception to it, but they're being called out on the fact they have been very negative about the veterans portfolio in recent months, and it runs the risk of talking Australian veterans down and eroding hope.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Deputy Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Those opposite can dish out criticism but they don't seem to be able to take it in return. The facts don't match the rhetoric of those opposite. The investment by the Australian government of Australian taxpayers' money, $11.7 billion in this year's budget, is a very significant commitment to those who served our nation and to their families.

Australians can be proud of the fact that the overwhelming majority of people who serve in the Australian Defence Force serve with great pride. It is some of the finest moments of their life. They are satisfied with the way they make a contribution to our nation, and then they transition well to civilian life. If we continue to portray all veterans as broken, bad or damaged goods it will be very difficult to attract them to future employment opportunities in the private sector. I encourage those opposite to join with the government in promoting the achievements of our veterans, notwithstanding the fact that there are many who require additional services and support upon transition. I encourage those opposite to work with the government in a more constructive manner in the future. This year's budget does see further investment in wellbeing centres.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

You're a total fraud.

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Deputy Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I take exception to the member opposite's comment. A person who has never sought a single briefing from me on veterans' issues is now calling me a fraud. That's outrageous. I take exception to that comment. Thank you for raising the point. You've never raised a single veterans' issue with me. Not one. How long have you been here? Not one veterans' issues have you ever raised with me.

I look forward to responding to the issues in relation to the staff employment details. As members on this side of the House indicated, this year's budget saw a very significant investment in additional support for our veteran community, with an additional 440 APS staff to be employed to assist in the time taken to process claims. There is no question the time taken to process claims has been an issue of concern for the Department of Veterans' Affairs and for me as minister for many months—in fact, for more than a year now. What we've seen is a record number of people coming forward to make claims, which is a positive, because veterans are actually seeking support when they need it, and the challenge now for the government is to ensure that support is provided in a timely manner.

In relation to the wellbeing centres, I can report that, as recently as last week, the Townsville wellbeing centre, The Oasis, was opened in the seat of the member for Herbert. It has taken a great deal of community effort to get to this point. What I would say in relation to the wellbeing centres—and I take the comments of those opposite on board—is that their intention is to make sure they are local solutions to local problems driven by local communities. So it is not a question of Canberra saying, 'This is what every wellbeing centre is going to look like.' We will work with those communities based on need to ensure we are delivering services in the communities for the families and for the veterans when they need it.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

6:36 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to speak about the 2021-22 budget and other recent measures in the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio. This is one of those forums that offers those rare opportunities to speak about the positive developments that occur inside a portfolio, particularly on the expenditure side of a portfolio. Inside my own portfolio, there has been a very significant expenditure in this recent budget. As we work through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I think the expenditure inside my portfolio is very relevant to this recovery.

There has been $475 million invested to drive industry growth, productivity, and technological and scientific developments, and the new funding in this budget supports strategic investments in Australia's science and research capability. They, in turn, are designed to drive economic growth and job creation in Australia. They help businesses thrive and they meet challenges that exist in the economy as we work our way out of the COVID pandemic recession. That investment of $475 million includes a very major investment of $387.2 million over the next 10 years to support the international collaboration with 16 other participating countries to deliver the Square Kilometre Array. That is, of course, a radio telescope in Western Australia. I recall, indeed, in its inception, when I was a state Attorney-General doing the native title on it, that it will be the world's largest radio telescope, enabling astronomers to learn about the creation of the universe. There will be 350 jobs during its 10-year construction phase, many of those in Western Australia, with 230 ongoing positions over the 50-year life of the project.

Our government is building on the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy announced in last year's budget. That will be part of making Australia a globally recognised, high-quality, sustainable and innovative manufacturing nation. Building on that very significant investment from last year's budget, that $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, we are making investments in this budget to strengthen Australia's antidumping system; we're increasing access to Commonwealth government procurement opportunities; and of course, we are looking to the capacity to develop onshore mRNA vaccine capability to maximise potential applications of that platform over the longer term and indeed a 10-year horizon.

The government is also seeking to explore new frontiers in manufacturing. We're providing $13.3 million to help the Australian Space Agency support the growth of that very exciting industry. As part of the budget, we are also providing $124.1 million to deliver Australia's first artificial intelligence action plan, and that itself is part of the larger $1.2 billion Digital Economic Strategy, which is helping to cement Australia as a global leader in responsible artificial intelligence development and adoption. The government is delivering funding to support and increase Australia's workforce skills in cybersecurity and emerging technologies. That includes $43.8 million over three years to expand the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, and that fund will create a pipeline of cybersecurity professionals that will meet the growing demand for cybersecurity jobs across the Australian economy.

It's also notable through this budget that we are encouraging more innovation by introduction of the patent box initiative. Of all of the initiatives, I think this is an exceedingly good initiative. The patent box will ensure that tax income derived from Australian patents, specifically in the medical and biotechnology sectors, is incentivised through a 17 per cent effective concessional corporate tax rate. That's going to encourage business to undertake R&D in Australia and keep patents here. This measure is obviously going to be complimented by the government's $2 billion existing investment in R&D through the R&D tax incentive.

Australia's manufacturing sector is presently creating jobs. It's doing so very thoroughly. Indeed, I recently had the privilege of joining in our first Australian Made wheat campaign, encouraging more consumers to buy local, which is supporting our manufacturers and growing local jobs. One job in manufacturing produces three to four jobs in all the other parts of our Australian economy. That's why we've committed that $1.5 billion to expand manufacturing activity and create jobs across our six national manufacturing priority areas. We've continued our work. We're providing significant, timely and necessary investments to ensure that we're maximising opportunities in industry, science and technology over the long term. I think that those investments are extremely sound. They are based on a framework of lower taxes, putting more money in people's pockets and generating business incentives to increase investment and create a path for businesses, which is at the heart of this government. I look forward to other member's participation in this setting.

6:40 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I have been in this place for a while now. This process, ultimately, is a joke. We will have the pretence of being able to ask questions here today. We'll have a number of the coalition government MPs come in and soak up time. Any of the questions that we put forward won't get answered, just as we saw with the last minister here, and I suspect that, with the minister we have here today, it'll be the same sort of drill. We have a lot of issues—

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

He's not even paying attention now. This is supposed to be consideration in detail. There is no consideration, reinforcing my point that the process is a joke.

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Member for Shortland, the member for Chifley is trying to speak.

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

To be fair to the member for Shortland, this is the point, Minister, and it's what I said earlier: the process is a joke. Consideration in detail in the lower house is a joke because they will just not answer any of the stuff that we put forward. You have one minister here, one minister there and another one who will probably come in as well, and they'll all dodge the answers. This minister here is basically marking time and I bet that in 300 days he will not be here. He's just going through the motions. He is a fantastic brief barrister. He'd be able to give you the best responses, but his heart's not in it and he will not be around to fulfil any of the stuff he just told us about. I bet you that he will not respond to any of the questions that I ask him now, in term of his portfolio. He has a whole process.

What we are witnessing now with this government is that they hollow out successful industry programs and then shift the money into another program that has been announced with much fanfare—a program that hasn't generated many jobs in manufacturing. This will be the new variant of what we see in the coalition. Basically, it will set a pool of funding aside, open it up to people to nominate for funds and have a minister make decisions about how it will be allocated, and then we will find out down the track, by virtue of an ANAO report, that it has been rorted. We've had it in sport rorts, road rorts and regional rorts, and now we'll get it in manufacturing, in terms of this Manufacturing Modernisation Fund that they've set up. The minister himself knows that in his own department.

Here are the questions that I'll put to him, which I'll bet any money he won't answer; we'll just get a dodge on them. He has a report, the ACIL Allen report, that was given to the former minister. They spent $400,000 of taxpayers' money on it. The report itself said that they've actually got a good thing going in these industry growth centres. They're not spending enough money in supporting them. They are actually driving long-term benefit in industry. This is across pretty much similar areas to those they have in terms of their manufacturing modernisation initiative and the strategies and all the stuff they have there. They won't release the report. I would love to know whether or not the minister has actually read the report. He has previously said that he hasn't. Will he release the report? Here am I, an opposition MP, asking him to release a positive report into a government initiative, and the government won't release it. Why? It is because the funding to the industry growth centres has only been provided for, I think, the next year—or maybe two years maximum—and then they'll kill these growth centres off and siphon all this support into the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. I also want to know why they won't fund the industry growth centres for longer, given that they have a report that says they're doing well. Why won't they release the report that says the centres are doing well into the public domain? And why won't they tell us how all the investments into the growth centres will be sustained?

The government won't let the industry growth centres bid for their own programs in the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund across the different industry areas. Another question I put to the minister is: why won't those growth centres be allowed to go for that funding? The government's argument is that they want them to be self-sustaining. They don't want them to be sustained on any government funding whatsoever. They won't support them directly but they won't allow them to go for the funds themselves.

On top of all that, the government are not building any industry capability longer term to ensure that manufacturing actually does flourish in this country. Let's see if the process is a joke. Maybe the minister will prove me wrong and actually answer a question or two, but I doubt it.

6:45 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government continues to back Australia's strong, innovative and resilient industries and to build our scientific and technological capability to help these industries grow. We know that these industries will be instrumental in securing Australia's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and creating high-paying jobs for the future. Australia's manufacturing sector is already renowned for its high-quality, sustainable and innovative products. The government has mapped out for our manufacturers a clear vision which will drive industry growth, productivity and developments in science and technology. Indeed, money is already flowing from the Morrison government's $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy to exemplify manufacturers in our six national manufacturing priorities.

In this budget, the Morrison government is building our manufacturing industries by developing an onshore mRNA capability that will strengthen our nation against future pandemics. It's also helping Aussie small to medium-sized enterprises to access Commonwealth procurement opportunities, with $2.6 million committed to building capability and increasing awareness of Australian-made products. It is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia's antidumping system, with $5 million in funding to ensure our industry has a level playing field for competition. It is supporting Australia's fashion industry, which employs over 200,000 people, with a $1 million grant to support the design and development of a certified trademark. And it is promoting our automotive sector by extending the research and development tariff concession to keep high-end automotive research activities in Australia.

I am also pleased to hear that the Morrison government, through an additional $13.3 million in this budget, is building the Australian Space Agency's capacity to grow the industry and deliver regulatory services. This funding, of course, adds to various existing commitments to growing the space sector, like backing emerging domestic space capability with a $19.5 million investment through the Space Infrastructure Fund. In my electorate of Reid, local company Abyss Solutions have been awarded $109,690 for their space-borne robotic inspection and intervention project. The Moon to Mars demonstrator feasibility grant opportunity aims to support Australian small to medium-sized enterprises to develop and demonstrate space projects with a clear potential to support Moon to Mars for qualification, space operability, space support and access to space.

It's clear the government is taking steps to build our tech capabilities, ensuring Australia's place as a trailblazer in artificial intelligence development and adoption, cybersecurity and digital economy capabilities. It is developing Australia's first ever Artificial Intelligence Action Plan, with over $120 million to support and encourage local adoption and use of AI solutions, develop AI solutions to overcome some of Australia's biggest problems, and raise awareness of AI in regional areas. We will also see the establishment of a new national AI centre, four AI digital capability centres and industry focused, co-funded scholarships to attract and train homegrown AI specialists.

We're also creating a pipeline of security professionals through $43.8 million to expand the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund. We're awarding national scholarships totalling $22.6 million in emerging technology areas, including robotics, cybersecurity, quantum computing and block chain. I'm very pleased to hear that we're continuing to back our scientists and our scientific community by investing in Australia's science and research capability. This builds on the record investment the government has made in science through initiatives to support greater women's participation in our vitally important STEM fields. In my electorate of Reid young change agents were recently awarded a grant for their project to encourage cross-generational social entrepreneurship for Indigenous women and girls. The Morrison government is continuing its work to boost the next generation of women in STEM through new industry focused university scholarships worth $42.4 million and delivering the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope, at $387 million, which is committed to learning more about our universe. We're also supporting strategically important emerging international science research and technology collaborations with global partners through our new Global Science and Technology Diplomacy Fund and ensuring the ongoing function and maintenance of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

6:51 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question to the government is simple: why is it so focused on a gas folly? We see it locally, where the minister for resources is refusing to rule out the extension of the granting of the PEP 11, the petroleum exploration permit which goes off the coast from Newcastle to Manly, the most ridiculous idea that could possibly be explored. It has been rejected by Deputy Premier Barilaro at New South Wales government level, and yet Minister Pitt refuses to confirm that he will also reject the application. We go on with this gas folly, from the local issue to the broader issue. At a time of record debt levels, eye-watering levels of debt that future generations are going to have to be committed to paying back, there must be a focus on investing public money in a way that will actually provide a return to the Australian public. Instead of focusing on industries that actually have longevity and that will in fact provide a return, the government is intent on spending $600 million on the Kurri Kurri gas peaker plant that Kerry Schott, the chair of the Energy Security Board, has described as the most expensive power. She's questioned the need for the plant. There were so many other options on the table, like pumped hydro, wind and solar with big batteries, all much cheaper. AGL, for example, unveiled just one week ago that they were going to transform the Liddell site, which theoretically is the very reason why this peaker plant is allegedly needed, according to the government's argument. The Liddell site will be replaced with solar and pumped hydro from 2023, in line with the closure date.

We know that huge amounts of public money are being spent on a gas folly of this government, ignoring all the advice to the contrary that this is not the safest path. If we want to keep Australians safe then we need to invest in the technologies that will in fact reduce emissions and will in fact deliver a return to Australians on their money, because, make no mistake, this is their money that is being borrowed to invest in technologies that have no future. There's been no release of a business case in relation to Kurri Kurri, only slogans and spin at the time of the by-election. It doesn't make sense. Every person in the industry, in the energy sector, has described this as being not at all the best way of spending public money. It is in fact an intervention in the market that goes completely against any principles of liberalism and the free market. If this proposal actually makes sense then please deliver a business plan that will give us a reason why we are spending so much public money on an investment that the public don't want and the private sector simply does not want to touch. I think that says it all. We know that the true build cost could be somewhere in excess of $1 billion. A report has found that there will be a limited gas supply for the plant because gas is mostly going to go to export and that New South Wales already has three gas peaking power stations, which will hardly be used before 2030, so it does beg the question.

The Australian Energy Market Operator created and released its integrated systems plan and identified that there was no need for additional gas in the system—that, in fact, the transition to renewables, the cheapest form of power, was occurring at a rapid rate—and that interventions would actually be detrimental to the market. But instead of believing the advice of the experts—and I can only assume there is some cynical, hypocritical or other reason—public money will be spent on a technology that simply is not the technology of the future. We know that it's not going to be needed. It comes back to those local questions, like whether we should be expanding gas exploration off the east coast of Australia with PEP 11. We know this is one of the most populated areas, with so much tourism and work going on and that that would be put at risk by a ridiculous project. It's more public money being wasted on a gas folly of the government.

6:55 pm

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

I'm addressing the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, who knows my electorate well. I come from South Australia, and he would know that 60 per cent of South Australia's electricity last year came from renewable energy, which is quite an achievement. In fact, there has been huge investment across South Australia in wind and solar, both large and household. More than 290,000 households now generate around 12 per cent of annual consumption, at a peak of 1,400 megawatts per hour when it's fully functioning. But largely that supply of renewable energy and the ability to absorb it into our grid has been maxed out.

AEMO has passed an upper limit on wind generation in South Australia of 1,300 megawatts when there is 2,053 megawatts of wind energy already installed in South Australia. So sometimes when the wind is quite brisk and you know that the demand is high, or at least moderate, you can drive around and see these wind turbines already switched off. The reason that AEMO has to do that is that the grid becomes unstable with that much fluctuating electricity and that there's a strong need to keep the gas generators that supply baseload electricity chugging over and supplying the bottom line, if you like.

It's interesting that investment in new generation continues at speed across South Australia when investors know there is an absolute limit at the moment. At the moment at Lincoln Gap there are another 86 megawatts of wind going in, and at Port Augusta in another project another 320 megawatts of solar and wind are going in, knowing full well that the market—for South Australia, at least—is already saturated. I have spoken to some of the companies involved, and they made their decisions based on the back of the decision of the South Australian and New South Wales high-voltage electricity movers to build a new connection between South Australia and New South Wales. It's going ahead. It's been announced. There's an 800-megawatt interconnector going in. It will hook up South Australia to Snowy Hydro 2.0, and that will provide a new market for new generation in South Australia, and it will also provide more stability back into the South Australian grid.

The fly in the ointment here is that, the more diversity you have in your electricity grid, the more stable it is and the more reliable it is. But, in fact, there are still times when you need to, virtually, fully back up that grid. The government made recent announcements about an 1,000-megawatt capacity to replace Liddell, and there was much made of the fact that it will only generate two per cent of time. The more that you have renewable energy, the more that you actually need the plug to fill in the gap when renewable energy is not available, even though it is on a smaller and smaller time scale that that plant will be operating.

Thank you very much to the minister, who has put some money into the development of pumped hydro possibilities in South Australia. We have more renewables, and things are generally going pretty well. I'm very interested in hydrogen and the fact that the minister and the government have announced as part of the budget an extra four sites, which will give us five hubs around South Australia. It's worth noting that even at two kilograms—and that is the aim of the government investment—it is still about four times the price of coal when it comes to generating electricity, at least in direct forms, which is slightly less of a margin on gas. Some of the great possibilities in hydrogen lie in the transport industry, where $2 hydrogen is more than competitive with the diesel price of $1.50. It's just how we get to this $2 hydrogen and how much of it is a renewable in the first instance.

I'm very pleased that the minister found the time last week to visit Moomba, which I think will be the site of one of the world's most efficient carbon capture and storage projects. The government has invested $15 million there. I ask the minister to update the chamber on how the government is providing affordable, reliable energy to families and businesses like those in my electorate of Grey. Can the minister outline how we're doing this while at the same time, importantly, reducing emissions?

7:00 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Why did it take a recession for this minister to finally achieve a reduction in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions? When he released the latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in May the minister boasted about reducing emissions by 26 million tonnes in 2020, compared to 2019. This was the first significant reduction in annual emissions since this government came to office, but the reduction was entirely due to the fact that the economy went backwards last year.

Under this government's watch Australia fell into its first recession in nearly 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, thousands of businesses lost their livelihoods and whole industry sectors were closed down. Australia's economy shrank by 6.4 per cent in real terms in the March quarter of 2020, so it's not surprising to anyone but the minister that emissions were also down five per cent in 2020. They were down for all the wrong reasons—not because of government policies to support investment in renewable energy, not because of government policies to drive the take-up of electric vehicles, not because of government policies to boost energy efficiency in businesses and households and not because of government policy to drive the innovation and new technologies that will reduce emissions, create new jobs and grow our economy. Emissions were down for the first time since this Liberal government came to office not for any of those reasons but because of the sharpest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The economic contraction cut emissions by 26 million tonnes in 2020.

A counterfactual analysis using the government's own figures suggested that, if GDP had grown last year in line with pre-COVID forecasts, emissions would have increased by several million tonnes—because this Liberal government has economic policy and emissions policies around the wrong way. Labor knows that we need to grow the economy at the same time as we reduce emissions. Under the former Labor government Australia's real GDP increased by 17 per cent, employment increased by 8.7 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions fell by 14 per cent. Let me repeat that: Labor grew the economy by 17 per cent and grew jobs by nine per cent while at the same time reducing emissions by 14 per cent.

By contrast, this Liberal government has reduced emissions only by shrinking the economy and shrinking the number of jobs. It's a failure of environmental policy and it's a failure of economic policy because as the economy recovers the new jobs that will come under the government leading the way on renewable energy and low-pollution technologies will not be there and the government's lack of effective climate and energy policies means that, as the economy recovers, the reduction in emissions will stall at best and go into reverse at worst.

The government has no policies for sustaining and reducing Australia's emissions and it has no policies for growing a low-carbon economy and creating the low-pollution jobs for the future. Instead, from this government we have 23 energy policies. We have a government crab walking towards net zero emissions by 2050 but not committing to it as a target. We have a technology road map with no actual policies to deliver the technologies that are supposedly going to provide the abatement that they're counting on to reach their 2030 target.

All we have got from this government is shambolic announcement after shambolic announcement. They're more interested in wedge politics and politics of coal cultural wars than delivering concrete policies that will effectively reduce our emissions, grow jobs and grow new industries while protecting existing industries. I'll hazard a guess that those on the opposite side will talk a bit about coal and gas in their contributions. That's fine, but when it comes to standing with coalminers on the issues that impact them, they are nowhere to be seen.

What coalminers care about is security at work. What coalminers care about is making sure that, if someone is on a labour hire contract next to them, they get paid the same amount as the permanent worker. When it comes to things like that, this government goes missing. When it comes to standing up for coalminers, they're missing. They stand up for coal companies but they don't give a fig about coalminers. That is the truth of it. When they're given the chance to support coalminers and to stand up against the casualisation of the coalmining industry, they are nowhere to be seen. In fact, they stand up for coalmining companies and labour hire shonks rather than for coalminers.

Can the minister confirm that his department's latest projections are for Australia's greenhouse gas emissions to be 478 million tonnes in 2030? Can he further confirm that this means the government will exceed its 2030 emissions reduction target by 35 million tonnes? Is the minister aware that 129 countries have now committed to net zero emissions by 2050? Can the minister explain why under this government Australia is one of only six industrialised countries refusing to commit to net zero by 2050? We're standing shoulder to shoulder—

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

The member's time has expired.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

The previous Deputy Speaker let them finish their sentence.

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

I'm obviously not the previous Deputy Speaker, am I? The minister has the call.

7:05 pm

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank those who have contributed to this debate. I particularly thank the member for Grey for his question and his ongoing commitment to families, businesses and industries that are crucial for jobs and projects across the country, including in Moomba, where I was recently and where we see Santos's gas plant. We have just announced Moomba to be one of six carbon capture and storage projects. That's a world-leading project which will not only sequester 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 a year but also position Moomba for hydrogen production in one of the biggest market opportunities I've seen in my career. The Japanese market is desperately looking for low-emissions hydrogen—clean hydrogen—and ammonia production to feed through existing thermal generators. Moomba is one of a number of sites around Australia where we see great potential for that, which is why we recently committed $15 million towards that project in the member for Grey's electorate.

We're partnering with industry to drive down emissions and at the same time to create export opportunities for Australian workers and Australian businesses. That's all about our understanding of the competitive advantage of this great nation of ours. Low-cost energy that can be exported is absolutely central to the history and future of this great nation—that is central to our energy and emissions reduction policy and shows our deep understanding of these sectors.

Through the budget we committed $58.6 million to support new initiatives to make sure our gas industry is efficient and effective, to unlock supply, to deliver the infrastructure and transportation market that is needed and to empower gas customers. That industry is absolutely central to the 900,000 Australians who work in manufacturing in this country. It's also crucial for firming up the record levels of investment we're seeing in renewables.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

To respond to the comments from those opposite, in the whole time Labor was in government there was 5,300 megawatts of investment in renewables. That's 5.3 gigawatts from 2007 through to 2013. That's how much was invested. Last year alone there was 7,000 megawatts of investment in solar and wind. Indeed, we're now seeing in Australia the highest level of household solar in the world. One in four—

Opposition members interjecting

Those opposite don't want to hear this because this is good news. This is talking up Australia. We like to talk up Australia. Those opposite love to talk Australia down any chance they get, but these are the facts: 7,000 megawatts last year of solar and wind—

Mr Husic interjecting

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

The member for Chifley is warned under section 187.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

and the year before there were 6,900 megawatts—we pipped it by a little bit. Investment in both of those years was higher than the total investment made when Labor was in power. But we're doing that whilst we're providing the affordable, reliable energy Australians want. That means when a coal fired generator closes it needs to be replaced. Those opposite don't understand this: it needs to be replaced. The member for Paterson understands it. The member for Hunter understands it. But their neighbour the member for Shortland has never got it. We're losing a thousand megawatts of capacity in the Hunter Valley at Liddell in April 2023. That's all we're losing! And the member opposite, the member for Shortland, thinks you don't need to worry about it, that it'll all be okay. Well, it's not. It needs to be replaced.

The good news is EnergyAustralia has committed to the Tallawarra gas generator. They're investing—the private sector—making very significant investment there. Alongside that, Snowy is making a very significant investment too. We know, from modelling that was done with the New South Wales government, if this doesn't happen, the wholesale price will rise by 30 per cent or more over time. Replacing that capacity is essential. The member for Shortland needs to support this, because this is good for the manufacturing industries in his electorate, good for Australian jobs and good for Australian industry, and that is that pragmatic emissions reduction and energy policy that is delivering for all Australians.

7:14 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My first question to the minister is: can you come and deliver that speech in my electorate, because my vote will go up if he does that time and time again. The minister doesn't come to Macnamara often. He's welcome to, as much as he wants. Minister, you are more than welcome in my electorate any time you want, mate, any time. But, the real question I have for the minister—he's very confident, this minister, very self-assured and not burdened by self-doubt—is: after all of your time in government, where is your national energy policy? Where is your policy—just one policy!—that will actually set Australia up into the future, that will actually set the framework for Australia's energy market going into the future? There isn't one. They had one. They had an energy policy. It was the NEG. We all remember the NEG, but that NEG went the way of Malcolm Turnbull. They got rid of him, just like they got rid of the NEG.

One thing this government and minister is good at doing is just picking and choosing projects not based on low-emission technology or based on the finances of this particular project but just based on their own ideological war on renewables. The first project that I'd mention is the $4 million they spent on the Collinsville coal fired power station feasibility study—$4 million of taxpayer funds that they spent—and that is not going to happen, and this minister knows it. He knows that they cannot justify building that coal fired power station. They haven't told the people of Collinsville. They're not honest about it with the people of Collinsville. They're happy for this to drag on, but they know that if they were to built this Collinsville coal fired power station then the federal government would be up for billions and billions of dollars in guarantees. But, instead, what's this minister willing to do? Instead of doing the hard work and creating a national energy policy or a framework that creates investment into the renewable energy sector and creates investment to set up our grid, all they are willing to do is throw away $4 million of taxpayer funds just to play a bit of politics with a community that they know is never ever going to have the Collinsville coal fired power station built under this government. They know it.

The member for Dawson has come into the chamber. Obviously they haven't told him, but the minister knows that there is no chance that that Collinsville coal fired power station is going to be built.

Mr Christensen interjecting

As I said, the minister's welcome in my electorate. It will sink his vote very, very quickly every time he visits my electorate.

The other question that I had for the minister is: where is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill? What happened to that bill? That was a piece of legislation where we were meant to see investment in clean energy in this country, and they came with a whole range of reforms. They wanted to take the clean energy out of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They wanted to remove the standards which the projects were held to. They wanted to be able to invest in lower-return projects—the great Liberal Party economic managers wanting to invest in projects that don't have a good return on investment! Instead, what happened? The member for New England came into the House of Representatives, introduced a series of amendments and the bill has just disappeared. It has disappeared off the shelf. The great reform of this minister has completely disappeared. I guess the member for New England is credited for stopping the bill. It was a terrible bill. I am glad that the bill hasn't seen the light of day, but where is that bill, Minister? We haven't seen it.

I have another question for the minister. In hearings that we had with the department, it was clear that there was no modelling done by this government on how long it's going to take for Australia to get to net zero emissions by 2050. We know that they aren't commissioning that work, because they're not interested in getting to that target. They don't have a commitment to get to net zero like every state and territory, like all of our comparable countries or like our friends and allies around the region. This government is being left in the past, and is stuck in the past, through ideological wars, so why is there no modelling on how we can get to net zero by 2050? The answer lies in the fact that this government doesn't want to get there. They're happy being stuck in the past, and Australians are going to pay the price for it.

7:16 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's my pleasure to rise to ask a question to the minister for resources and northern Australia, which are two of my favourite things: the resource of coal and the great north, Northern Australia, and North Queensland in particular. I refer the minister to the ongoing demonisation of coal. We've just heard a bit of it, badmouthing the Collinsville coal-fired power project—

Mr Husic interjecting

I can speed it up if you want, Ed, but I really need to talk slow so that you can understand! The clean coal-fired power project in Collinsville and their opposition to it over on that side of the House is symptomatic of their entire opposition to coal. It seems, unfortunately, that the once great party of the worker, the Labor Party, is now the party of the inner city greenie. They are led by the nose by the green movement.

We hear all sorts of things from those opposite. The member for Shortland over there is supposed to be a champion of mineworkers, but gets up here and rabbits on about renewable energy all the time rather than worrying about the jobs of his own workers. I'm very worried about the jobs of local workers, particularly when we've got negativity from—

Opposition members interjecting

That's not what happened at the last election. I can tell you, Minister, that the coalminers were that supportive of me and the government that I, on Labor Day of all days, standing outside the prepoll booth, got a big hug from a guy who'd just wrapped up in the march, emblazoned with his bright green CFMMEU shirt and hat. He told me that he was voting for me because I was such a strong supporter of the coal sector and the coal workers. That's the kind of record that I have in my electorate.

We always hear this talking down of the sector from those opposite and from the green movement, so I thought I'd put some facts on the table. Interestingly, I got this brochure from the Minerals Council earlier today with some quick facts in it that the minister would certainly know about: 199 million tonnes of coal, making Australia the world's second-largest thermal coal exporter in 2020, generating revenue of $16.6 billion. Some important facts: along with metallurgical coal jobs, there are 40,000 jobs in this nation directly from coalmining; $5 billion in royalties for state governments, paying for hospitals and schools; an investment of $6.3 billion capital expenditure in coal projects across the country; and $289 million in exploration. Coal-fired power plants, it says, produce 58 per cent of the power in our homes. And we've seen what happens when you take out coal-fired power, with the sad situation at Callide, where we've now got a coal-fired power plant out of action, and the resultant impact on wholesale power prices in Queensland in particular.

Minister, my worry is that we've got all of this negativity from the other side of politics—the Labor Party, the green movement, all of the groups that are out there like GetUp!—coming towards the coal sector. But, fundamentally, if you take politics out of it, the coal sector is very, very strong, including the thermal coal sector; there is much demand for it. I know the minister knows this. So what I'm wanting to understand, minister, is: how does the government see the outlook for coal, particularly thermal coal, into the future? Is the government completely supportive of the coal sector and all of the people that work for the coal sector? How does the government respond to the attacks on the coal sector from the other side of politics, from the green movement and from all of the groups like GetUp!? I would be very interested to know this, as would all of the workers in my electorate and throughout Central Queensland and throughout the Hunter whose jobs rely on the coal sector, because they want the minister and the Morrison Liberal-National government to continue its strong support of the coal sector. I'm sure that's the answer we're going to hear from you, Minister. I really want to hear that.

Opposition members interjecting

I'm sure those opposite want to hear it, because they can't get the same kind of thing out of their own shadow minister or their own leader. They'll never, ever support coal, much to their shame. They've walked away from coal workers, who were once the backbone of the Labor Party. (Time expired)

7:21 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I have five minutes but am only going to speak for one minute; my esteemed colleague will do the rest. I just want to say: thank you to the coalition for (1) proving the point that I made that this process is a joke—none of the ministers that were asked questions are here. And (2) I said Christian Porter wouldn't stay around for long, and he left early; he never answered any of the questions. I said he wouldn't do it, and he didn't do it. Thank you for proving my point. They treat the industry portfolio as a joke, and that minister is an absolute representation of the contempt they have for this whole process.

Photo of Madeleine KingMadeleine King (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

I heard the member earlier talking about support or otherwise for coal, and I've come out very strongly in support of the coal industry, as have Labor; it's in our national platform and it's in many statements I and many others have made. What I do want to point out to the minister and others in the room is that there is a threat facing Australia's resources exports other than a decline in trade with China—that is, the government's refusal to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. It's obvious from the G7 meeting that we saw earlier this week that this government is completely isolated on the world stage when it comes to taking action on climate change. More than 120 countries, including 70 per cent of our trading partners, as well as every state and territory in this country, including Queensland and WA, our biggest resources states, have committed to a target of net zero emissions by 2050. I might add that joining them are our largest exporters and our largest resource companies, who are therefore the largest employers in this country—BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue, Santos, INPEX and many more. These are the job creators of this nation, and they have all decided to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050. Industry groups have also—we know APPEA supports and has called for the government to align its policies with international policies to reach net zero emissions by 2050. But this government has not done so. Our exporters understand that action is urgently needed and the cost of inaction will be steep. That is why they are committing to net zero emissions in the absence of leadership by this government. Our resources exporters are facing the prospect of carbon border taxes, which are being actively considered by the European Union, the UK and were even legislated by the US Congress way back in 2009.

Minister, my question is: When will you and your government realise that you are completely out of touch with the policy settings and frameworks that Australia needs for the 21st century resources industry? When will you and your government admit that the coalition's inaction on climate change presents a serious threat to our exports of minerals and energy? You are damaging Australia's future resources trade. It's time this government had a good look at what the international community are doing and started getting with the program and being more positive about this and working with it so that all our export industries, particularly our resources industry, can work with you and with the rest of the community to reach net zero emissions.

I do have some other questions for the minister. I would like to know what the government's plan is to make sure sanctions introduced by China, which have already wiped out the Australian red wine industry by 96 per cent—that's how much their exports have gone down—will not affect the resources industry. Will the government listen to industry leaders and take their concerns seriously, in the national interest of maintaining and improving our trade-in-resources relationship? Just last month, BHP Minerals Australia President, Edgar Basto, warned the Morrison government of the risk these long-running tensions with China bring to Australia's largest-trading partnership. Mr Basto is one of the business voices the government would probably rather not hear on the China trade relationship, but we should listen to Mr Basto because BHP employs more than 45,000 people as employees or contractors across this country.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald last month raised the prospect that China could widen its trade sanctions on Australia to target LNG exports, which account for $13 billion a year and thousands of jobs. Minister, are you concerned about the prospect of this happening? What is this government actually doing to ensure that our other biggest exports, including LNG and iron ore, are not caught up in these trade tensions?

I want to reflect on a few of the reports this government has issued in relation to the resources sector. Recently there was a media release announcing the $20 million Global Resources Strategy to build new markets for Australia's resource exports and to develop closer relationships with key trading partners. Minister, why have you abandoned a plan to create the Strategic Resources Advisory Group, an expert body intended to provide advice on the challenges and opportunities for exporters? Your predecessor, Senator Canavan, promised to implement the Strategic Resources Advisory Group back in 2019, but it has sunk without a trace.

We have the new Global Resources Strategy. What is going on with that? And what about the Resources 2030 Taskforce report? What happened to that? How is your government progressing this to make resources a stronger and more sustainable export industry well into the future? This government treats that report a bit like it did with the India Economic Strategy—again a massive report that was totally ignored by this government. There's lots of money on reports and no action. Minister, what will you do to make sure the resources industry stays strong?

7:26 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge the shadow minister for resources, who has picked up the tradition of all shadow ministers for resources and ministers for resources for this country of working together on the things that actually matter. I want to acknowledge the work that we have done in recent weeks, particularly around the proposal for Australia's low-level radioactive waste facility, which we're having discussions on now. It has been congenial and it is in the national interest.

I'm asked about the Chinese trade relationship. Clearly it is an incredibly important relationship for Australia's exports, regardless of whether they are in the resources sector, the agricultural sector or otherwise. We continue to engage, both in country and through diplomatic channels, with our biggest-trading partner. That is the reality. Trade is trade is trade. Trade is built on relationships, and those relationships, particularly in the resources sector, are between companies in country. And they remain strong.

In terms of our coal exports, right now we have more people employed in the coal sector than there has been since 2012. That is a phenomenal result for this country. In regard to LNG—and I've been asked this question a couple of times—all of the information we have from industry is that demand is actually increasing and price is increasing, and that is in pretty much all of our trading countries right across the world, including China. That is the feedback from industry—that there is a very positive outlook for the LNG sector moving into the future.

I'm asked what we will do in addition to the other challenges and the other things we have in place. This is why we have implemented Australia's Global Resources Strategy. In the budget, $20 million was put on the table to help us look at diversifying options for trade to find additional markets at better value, to assist Australian companies to open up those markets and provide further opportunities for Australia's exporters. We must never forget that this is Australia's biggest export sector. It's more than 50 per cent of what we trade around the world. My expectation is that, in the very near future, we will find that we break through $300 billion in exports in this financial year. To put that into perspective, in the midst of COVID, the estimate was under $250 billion. There is no other industry in this country that can turn around a $50 billion increase, not only in economic activity but also in the jobs that go with it. And the resources sector has now well over 260,000 people directly employed, particularly in areas like the member for Dawson's electorate, where there is a significant amount of employment not only directly in mine sites and resource companies but also in the METS sector and right across that technological expertise which we export around the world.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:30