Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022; Second Reading
Ian Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I rise to support Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022, which provide for additional expenditure on government programs which require further funding since the budget appropriation bills of May 2021 and the subsequent coronavirus response bills. The appropriations authorised by these bills total approximately $15.9 billion.
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 provides additional funding of approximately $11.9 billion for the ordinary annual services of the government, which include departmental costs of Australian government agencies for departmental and administrative activities which have previously been endorsed by parliament. The Department of Health will receive $2.86 billion, with the majority of this funding to support the government's response to COVID-19, including to secure additional treatments for coronavirus, provide support for greater testing capacity in relation to rapid antigen tests, and support the rollout of vaccines and boosters within the Australian community. In my electorate, service providers such as Community Vision Australia have highlighted the impact of the increased operating costs of delivering services to clients in a COVID environment. It is intended that this funding will go some way to alleviating the cost of rapid antigen testing and providing personal protective equipment for the workforce.
The Department of Social Services will receive $2.75 billion, which will be used to support the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will receive $1.41 billion across a range of programs to support the childcare sector, jobs in the post-pandemic recovery, and additional funding to support vocational education and training. The Department of Defence will receive $1.28 billion to support the implementation of recent government decisions to boost defence capability.
On the other hand, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022 provides additional funding for services that are not in the ordinary course of government, including capital works and payments to the states and territories and local government. As the local government authority covering three-quarters of my electorate, the City of Joondalup receives annual federal financial assistance grants for roadworks and general purposes. I am pleased to support the city in its advocacy for a federal funding contribution towards a number of priority capital projects in the upcoming budget process. These projects have been submitted by Mayor Albert Jacob and Chief Executive Officer James Pearson.
The redevelopment of the community facilities at Heathridge Park is a major project for the City of Joondalup. Heathridge Park caters for more than 30 different sporting clubs and community groups. In 2019 the city initiated a needs analysis and feasibility study confirming the inadequacies of the ageing infrastructure. The city's draft concept plan for Heathridge Park proposes a new multipurpose building to replace the three existing buildings and to upgrade the sporting facilities and public amenities to provide greater all-year-round use. The estimated construction cost of the redevelopment is approximately $15.7 million. The next stage of the process will be the detailed design and tendering for the construction phase, subject to the necessary local, state and federal funding being secured.
I wish to highlight the disparity in state government funding of community facilities between suburbs located east of Marmion Avenue compared with suburbs located to the west of Marmion Avenue, along the coast. In the lead-up to the 2021 WA state election, the McGowan Labor government committed $8 million to the Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club redevelopment, and a further $4.9 million was allocated to the Ern Halliday Recreational Camp in Hillarys. In contrast, only $2.5 million was committed to the redevelopment of Heathridge Park, which is located east of Marmion Avenue. The residents of Heathridge and suburbs located east of Marmion Avenue deserve parity of funding with their neighbours along the coast. A federal funding contribution towards the upgrade of Heathridge Park as part of the current budget process would make this project possible, in conjunction with the revised funding commitment from the state government and a municipal contribution from the City of Joondalup.
Moving on to minor capital items, the City of Joondalup requires $130,000 in funding to construct a coastal lookout in Merrifield Way and Tom Simpson Park in Mullaloo. The project consists of the construction of a boardwalk in the coastal dune system overlooking the southern portion of Mullaloo Beach. Currently, there is no pedestrian connection between the northern end of Mullaloo Beach and the adjacent shared coastal pathway. Similarly, it is proposed to construct a raised boardwalk to provide this connection, with $220,000 in federal funding required.
Building on the success and popularity of the park warrior course recently installed at Whitfords Nodes Park with the aid of a federal funding contribution of $500,000, the city is proposing to install the second facility in the northern suburbs of the city, provided $300,000 in funding can be secured. The park warrior course is an innovative concept combining exercise with fun and play, making it attractive to families, young people and adults. It is designed to encourage people over 12 years old to get active and healthy in an open space, while having fun. The park warrior course will provide significant health benefits for users, building strength and increasing coordination, balance and flexibility.
The Burns Beach Master Plan is a planning framework designed to guide the future development of the Burns Beach foreshore to ensure it reaches its full potential as a high-amenity coastal destination with sustainably managed community facilities and small-scale commercial activities for enjoyment by residents and visitors alike. In particular, there is a focus on the development of a coastal node, which requires $500,000 in funding. This node will activate the coastal precinct and attract both local and international visitors through a range of tourism activities, including a destination cafe, restaurant and commercial kiosk.
The Padbury north-east cluster of parks includes Wentworth Park, Fraser Park and Byrne Park. All three parks are dry parks with park infrastructure at the end of its life cycle, offering little in the way of visual amenity, with no usable green park space. Through the revitalisation program, which requires $655,000 in funding, the parks will be upgraded with an irrigated turf area for recreation, mulched areas, planting beds, tree plantings and universal access parks.
The City of Joondalup has been progressively modernising its lighting in and around the city centre. Funding of $1.3 million is sought for the replacement of 210 lights in the residential areas of the Joondalup city centre, improving community safety and energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions.
The scenic Neil Hawkins Park was first developed approximately 30 years ago and the park infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. Therefore, the city is seeking $2 million in funding to renew the facilities for park users.
A funding contribution of $2.1 million is being sought to construct a new dual carriageway roundabout at the intersection of Whitfords Avenue and the Craigie leisure centre access road. The design includes a fourth leg functioning as the main access to the Pinnaroo cemetery. The new intersection will allow safe traffic movements—particularly for vehicles turning right, both into and out of both facilities. Vehicle queueing will be reduced, resulting in a better functioning road section.
The city plans to revitalise the Joondalup city centre, to activate the area by undertaking a number of works, and is seeking $4.2 million in funding. The aim is to increase the activation in preparation for the increase in the number of residents within the Joondalup city centre. The city's main street, Grand Boulevard, is a key thoroughfare and a vital connection to the suburbs across the city of Joondalup and it needs an upgrade to its ageing infrastructure. It requires improvements to the streetscape to provide greater amenity for people who visit, live and work within the city of Joondalup by enhancing the infrastructure and services throughout the area, including for public transport and pedestrian usage. This will enhance the experience for all.
As a result of the recent federal electoral redistribution, new suburbs within the city of Stirling, including Carine, Gwelup, North Beach, Trigg and Watermans Bay, have been included in the Moore electorate. I am pleased to support the city's advocacy for a number of local projects. Mayor Mark Irwin and Chief Executive Officer Stuart Jardine, along with Councillor Karlo Perkov and Councillor Tony Krsticevic, have advocated for funding for a number of projects.
The regional playground on Okely Road in Carine is more than 20 years old and is due for renewal. In line with recent developments of other regional facilities, the City of Stirling is seeking $2 million in funding to upgrade this area to a community parkland with picnic facilities, a range of play options and accessible amenities.
Funding of $100,000 is being sought to deliver a new urban mountain bike beginner trail to meet the current community demand and provide more amenities for our younger generation. Carine Regional Open Space has been identified in the state's Perth and Peel Mountain Bike Master Plan as the destination for a new urban mountain bike trail and jumps.
Moving to the coast, funding of $100,000 is being sought to install CCTV cameras in the bay beach car park areas, including Trigg, North Beach and Watermans Bay. The CCTV cameras will assist with the deterrence of antisocial and criminal behaviour and provide evidence to support WA police investigations.
Funding of $160,000 is being sought to create a sense of place in Flora Terrace by providing landscaping, more trees and street furniture to create better ambience around the retail precinct.
A contribution of $300,000 in funding is required to upgrade the Henderson Environmental Centre to enhance its purpose of supporting the community in taking action towards the protection of the city's biodiversity—in particular, the provision of air conditioning and upgrades to the environmental education displays.
Funding of $380,000 is sought to renourish sand at Mettams Pool and the northern bay beaches by transferring approximately 10,000 cubic metres of sand sourced from Trigg Beach. Similarly, $250,000 in funding is required to replace the beach access ramp at Mettams Pool beach to provide universal access to the water, including for those with limited mobility.
To encourage sustainable modes of transport over single-occupant vehicles, $100,000 in funding is being sought to provide end-of-trip facilities for cyclists, including secure bike-parking racks, bicycle repair stations and changing-room facilities. Similarly, a funding contribution of $2 million is being sought towards building a $10 million coastal path network from Trigg to Watermans Bay. The project aims to provide shared path improvements and a dedicated bicycle lane facility along West Coast Drive to address ongoing concerns about the potential risk and injury caused by fast-moving cyclists on the coastal recreational shared path, and also to provide a safe cycling facility for the public. The City of Stirling is also seeking $30,000 in funding to provide publicly accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure at key precincts and locations around the city.
I am pleased to support the abovementioned applications for federal funding contributions by both local government authorities within my electorate—the City of Joondalup and the City of Stirling—as part of the upcoming budget process.
Joanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
As I remove my mask this morning, I'm reminded that we have entered the third year of a global pandemic and that, no matter how much we wish it away, it is not yet over. I want to take some time to thank the magnificent residents of my community. As the very proud member for Lalor, I stand here to thank every person who lives in my community for their commitment, for their patience, for their resilience and for the way that they have worked together across what has been an incredibly difficult time, and we're now into the third year.
It has been a difficult time for the local people that I represent in this place, but they have shown enormous Australian spirit in the way that they have approached this pandemic. Like most Australians, they heard their Prime Minister giving the bad news that this pandemic would reach our shores, that things would change. They were assured that our government would take charge, take control, that there would be tough decisions but this government would make them. And, like most Australians, they buckled up, they dug in, and they looked after themselves and their neighbours when they were asked to learn how to wash their hands all over again, like they hadn't learnt it before in their life; as they sang little ditties over bathroom sinks and taught their children to wash their hands; as they donned masks when they were asked to to protect not just themselves but other people in the room with them; when they stayed home, even when they desperately needed to go to work to pay the rent or to pay the mortgage.
It has been a really, really tough time for the people in my electorate. We had two winters with high infection rates. We lost people in our aged-care centres. We had disruptions to family life through childcare difficulties. We had schools close, schools open, schools open for the parents of essential children or for disadvantaged children. We had schools scrambling to ensure that every family had the equipment, the curriculum and the support they needed. We had support staff in schools and teachers ringing families every week, touching base with families that they knew or identified where children might not have had the support they needed; those families were contacted every day. That's what we've been living.
I can only imagine how the people in my electorate felt yesterday, if they tuned into question time, to hear the Prime Minister tick off his list of accomplishments in this pandemic. Sitting opposite, I was appalled. One of the most disappointing things about this pandemic has been this Prime Minister's failure to take the reins, failure to plan, failure to actually become the leader that crises create an opportunity for people to become. And our history speaks long about those opportunities. We don't have to look very far. In question time yesterday the Treasurer failed to mention the global financial crisis that a Labor government led this country through. He failed to acknowledge that leadership means standing up, making decisions, accepting responsibility. The Australian public will always forgive a leader who makes an error, as long as they know they're on the journey with them. This Prime Minister has failed at that. The juxtaposition between him and state premiers has been written large in our history.
From the very first, this Prime Minister failed to define his role. He acted politically at every turn. He watched the news cycle rather than listening to the feedback he was getting. As a member of this parliament and someone who cares deeply about their community, I know that, because I spoke to many of my colleagues in electorates across this country, from both sides of the House and from the crossbench, about what was happening in their communities. I'll tell you what good members of parliament did: they opened their ears and listened. They found new ways to receive feedback from their community. We helped thousands of people with Centrelink in those early days when people couldn't go to work. We fed information back to government about what was happening on the ground. We tried to assist government to fix the small things that we knew were creeping in.
I'll give you an example, Mr Deputy Speaker. In my community we knew that the government had not included many of our residents who happen to be New Zealand citizens. What did Labor do in response? We raised this with government. We said, 'There must be a way you can support this community.' We gave them ideas. Some ideas were taken up by government, but not enough—time and time again. When childcare situations became terrible we were on the phone talking to ministers. We were talking to our shadow ministers, who were also talking to ministers to say, 'We need to change this right now, because the impact is adding pressure to families on the ground.' But every time there was hesitation.
There was reluctance to take up good ideas. JobKeeper: how long did it take for the government to finally land that, to say it was a good idea? There are those on our benches who, having led Australia through a global financial crisis, are very experienced, and they deserved respect—but, no. We got baulking; we got failure to see that we needed economic stimulus and we needed it right away. They failed to see that families, like those in my community, needed that support, and that without it the economy was going to fall apart. They were always too slow.
They were too slow in aged care. Local members were on the phone to aged-care centres. I know that I was. I had community members ringing me to say, 'There's a problem in our aged-care centre, Jo.' Their mum or their dad was there. What do you do? You ring the aged-care centre and find out what they need. You ring the minister and say what is happening there. But, time and time again, the systemic changes that needed to be made were not made. That led to a lack of infection control. No-one is denying that aged care was pretty much in crisis before the pandemic hit. This government, in its 10th year, still has not quite acknowledged that, despite the royal commission.
I think the saddest thing about the pandemic has actually been the failure to understand that the Australian people would come on board, that they would do what was necessary. They've now proven that they are up to the challenge and have lived through the challenge, as we go into our third year. But it wasn't just the politics of the day that seemed to get in this Prime Minister 's way. It wasn't just fixing the minor details when something large was changing. It was the failure to do the big things. It was the failure in quarantine and the failure in vaccination that meant that in Melbourne we had a second winter when we didn't need to. We could have reached those 95 per cent plus vaccination rates if we'd had vaccines here in 2020. The failure in quarantine meant that we had further lockdowns. There's the failure most recently in testing, in the failure to provide free rapid antigen tests to every Australian family.
All of those things were very clear, and yet yesterday we got a list of accomplishments rather than any acknowledgement that we had learnt something. In child care, every time we knew what measures needed to be put in place, there was a delay. Every time, there was a delay which actually meant that, on the ground, families were scrambling and childcare centres were scrambling. These are things that this government had clear responsibility for.
In contrast, we on this side dug in in our electorates, we opened our ears, we listened and we worked as hard as we could to help the residents make the adjustments that they needed to make. And you know what else we did? We thought about what the world would look like post this. We identified the systemic problems, we identified what the pandemic had shone a light on. Take aged care, for example. There can be no clearer example than in aged care that a casualised workforce, people in insecure work working in more than one facility, was a problem. It highlighted the problem of insecure work across the country because it put pressure on people to not go to work when they really needed to go to work, and we asked them not to. They had to wait and wait and wait for other things to be put in place to support them.
What Labor did was focus on those systemic issues, and what Labor have come up with is a clear focus where a better life for every Australian family is just over the horizon, with more affordable child care, and safer and more affordable housing, because those two things were highlighted during the pandemic; secure, well-paid jobs so that Australian families can plan for their future with real job security; investment in skills and training; and a commitment to closing the gender pay gap, because that was highlighted so strongly in the pandemic, where we saw feminised workforces on the frontlines every day, taking all the risks. As I've said before, and I tell everyone in my electorate, when you're driving down the street and you see an aged-care worker changing out of the boot of their car in a public street so they do not take any infection home to their family, you know we've got some issues in this country.
Labor will commit to a future made in Australia because the pandemic shone a light on where we are in the global chain and where we are in terms of when a disaster strikes. Labor will invest in renewable energy. Labor will make buying Australian easier because we will make Australian things here. We'll rewire the nation. Labor took time during the pandemic—we dug into our electorates, we supported the residents as much as we could and then we focused our minds on how to create a better way back from this pandemic.
In a few months from now, the Australian people will go to the polls. In the weeks leading up to that, there is going to be a lot said. There are going to be a lot of lists of accomplishments. I want to say to the Australian people, when you're watching a minister of this government with their tick-flick list of accomplishments, ask yourself what question they are answering. What question are they answering? Because, if you're choosing now, Prime Minister, to do a list of accomplishments, there are obviously questions being asked. The questions being asked are the same ones that have been asked throughout the pandemic. Why didn't you trust that the Australian people would get on board? Why did you think you needed to be focused on the politics of the day? Why did you think that you had to win the news cycle, when all you needed to do was lead? All you needed to do was apply your intellect to the problems at hand to get across the large things, like ordering vaccines and building quarantine facilities, and get across the small details; and to focus on the learnings so that errors were only made once, so that, when communities went into lockdown for a second time, things became automatic. We didn't need to change childcare regulations every time and put things in place for short bursts of time. When this government's listing how much it's spending on aged care, ask yourselves: what question are they trying to answer? Well, they're trying not to take responsibility for the errors that were made—for the lack of PPE on the ground, in aged-care centres. That's the question they're trying to answer.
I finish by saying I'll be back in my electorate tomorrow, with leave from the parliament, to attend the funeral of a very, very dear friend. I've spoken about Harry van Morst before, and he's been mentioned in Hansard on several occasions over many decades. He was a man who always had his eye on the big picture, but he knew how to look for the details in the smaller pictures that made up the big picture. He was a great leader in my community, and I wish wholeheartedly that we had a Prime Minister who understood leadership. I wish the Prime Minister understood that what you have to do is bring people together, not choose to try to divide people to win a political news cycle.
Jason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I thank the member for Lalor for her contribution to debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022. The appropriation bills are probably some of the most arcane bills to come before this chamber, and I know that most people tuning in to parliament today will probably switch off when they hear that we're debating appropriations. But these are also some of the most critical bills that we debate because at the core of the government of any state's implementation of those things that it stands for is the very important process of appropriating money. We have to ask ourselves: what is the purpose of government if not to maximise the freedom of individuals consistent with the freedom of others?
We on this side of the chamber envision a society of freedom and fairness, where people know that they can undertake their lives free from excessive coercion from government. We envision a society where fairness means that when you have a go, you get a go. Equality is not equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity, and on this side of the chamber we strive for that every day because we know that everywhere in the world equality of outcome, where it has been enforced on individuals, has only led to serfdom and slavery and imprisonment of those people who have suffered under the yoke of that government. Opportunity is something that this government works towards every single day of the week.
When we talk about compassion and care for fellow Australians, we don't mean the compassion of a bureaucrat or an overweening government. We know that care and compassion come from those who know us and love us—our friends, our family, our neighbours. Communities of care and compassion develop organically and are supported by government, not enforced by government. This requires freedom, this requires fairness and this requires equality of opportunity. When we have achieved all of those things, we will truly live in a society in which we can preserve those things that are sacred and protect those things that we have always done because we understand them to be good and part of our culture and our lives.
I come to this place with a very unusual story. My father was a migrant to this country. When he arrived he couldn't speak English. My mother's maiden name was Brittain-White. They met, they fell in love, they got married and they had children on the northern beaches of Sydney. I was born in Manly. I grew up in Belrose in a house made from fibro, which those of us who grew up in such houses know have the quality of keeping heat in during summer and making sure that it is out of the house by the time winter comes around. There were snakes in the house; my mother didn't like them, but my father always reasoned with her that the snakes in the roof kept the possums out. I don't think my mother was entirely convinced that this was a compelling reason to allow snakes to live in the roof of the house.
One of my favourite stories is that we were watching Jaws one night, and there was a lot of noise coming from the bathroom. My brother, who's a year younger than I am, was dispatched to find out what was causing all the noise. It was the shampoo bottles falling off the window shelf. He sat down and said, 'Mum, it's a snake coming in and knocking the shampoo bottles off the shelf.' A minute later, not believing his story, I went to the bathroom to have a look and found that the snake was halfway across the ceiling and looking down at me. That night I gave the screech of a warrior to let those in the house know that we were in danger. I think the snake was about four foot long, but every time I tell the story it grows a couple of inches. These are the stories of people who come to this parliament with real-life experience. We didn't inherit our money. We didn't think that driving Teslas down to the South Coast to a winery where we can recharge them is the experience of ordinary Australians.
When we come into this chamber we know that it is important that we follow the law so that, when we go to the Australian people and say that we want net zero by 2050, we have the programs and the laws in place to make that happen, and not secretly take donations from coal investors and directors of coalmines who bought their coalmine from Eddie Obeid. They have the gall to come into this chamber and lecture us about honesty. Where was the honesty when they received the $100,000 cheque and then deliberately divided it into eight separate payments so it was below the disclosure regime? Is that honest?
Where's the integrity in not facing up to the fact that your largest donor happened to be a coal baron who got his money from someone who is currently in prison for maladministration and that you received your largest donation from a person who had an adverse finding against them at the Independent Commission Against Corruption? You have spent the last six months criticising the former Premier of New South Wales. There is not a skerrick of evidence of one incident of corruption, but you have happily accused her of corruption. Where's the integrity in that? Where's the honesty in that? Why should we believe that you are possibly in any way, shape or form in favour of the climate. Maybe you are just in favour of the slogan that gets you the money and gets you the votes so you can sit in this chamber.
Australians are not fools. They know a fraud when they see one. They know a fake when they hear one. These people are funded by Climate 200 and funded by another person who inherited great wealth. They bring to these arguments no policies and no ideas. Their only campaign slogan seems to be: 'Vote for us. We're better than you because we inherited a lot of money.' Australians will see through this. I have absolutely no doubt that they will see through this, because it is experience that informs your priorities.
At the next election Australians don't want to hear how hard it is to drive your Tesla to Berry to get it recharged at your favourite winery. They want to hear about what this government or any government is going to do not just to create the jobs of the future but to invent the jobs of the future. They want to know how we are going to make housing affordable for all Australians, not just those lucky enough to inherit their wealth. They will want to know why it is that Australians under the age of 40 now have the lowest level of homeownership in the history of this nation or since 1947. We all know that when the census is updated in June this year it will probably show that it is the lowest since this nation was founded. They want to know what you're going to do about that, not about how hard it is to recharge your Tesla at a Berry winery.
They also want to know what you as a government are going to do to keep this nation safe and secure and a beacon of hope and opportunity in a tempestuous region. People are crying out for freedom and vision. They know they are being threatened by an overleaning authoritarian regime. They want to know that there are alternatives. They want to know that you have the strength to stand up not only for yourselves but for them too.
They know that slogans are great but plans are better. When it comes to climate change they will want to know what your plan is to fix it. This government has a plan—net zero by 2050. It's not a plan to drive your electric vehicle to a winery in Berry to get recharged; it's a plan to get the Australian economy to create more jobs, to invent the jobs of the future, to bring manufacturing back, to secure our fuel supply so that our nation is both safe and secure, to ensure that we can go to international fora and point with a true and honest heart to those sitting around the table and say: 'We are meeting our goals. What about you?' We can go and we can hold our heads high with net zero by 2050.
I note that Simon Holmes a Court is speaking at the National Press Club today. I know that he's scary and that he inherited a lot of money, and we know how journalists get scared of people who are wealthy. But I wonder if a single solitary journalist from the fourth estate will have the gumption to stand up to him and ask: Why is it that in September and October you said that the epitome of any government's sincerity towards climate change is signing up to net zero by 2050 but that the minute the Morrison government did that it was apparently astroturfing and greenwashing? Was it astroturfing when you were saying it, Simon, or is it just astroturfing when the politics change? A question to this very wealthy individual from Melbourne should be: are you interested in the politics, or are you interested in the policy?
Opposition members interjecting—
Jason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Sorry, I did not mean to insult the good people of Melbourne. Apparently he's not from Melbourne; he's from somewhere else. I'm not sure if those opposite are suggesting that where he's from is a tax haven. I'm sure that's not true. We all know that, under Daniel Andrews, Melbourne is not a tax haven; that's for sure.
In the seat of Mackellar, there have been some incredibly important advances on these goals. In education, which is the very core of providing equality of opportunity, we have increased funding per student by 52 per cent. When you look at schools such as Kinma School, St Lucy's at Narraweena and St Martin's Catholic Primary School, we have made sure that we've upgraded the IT equipment that they have there. We have made massive improvements to classrooms, with new furniture, whiteboards and, importantly, air-conditioning. Even schoolyards at Galstaun College, Kambora Public School, Collaroy Plateau Public School, Maria Regina Catholic Primary School and Mona Vale Public School, Elanora Heights Public School, Frenchs Forest Public School, Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, Narrabeen Lakes Public School and Yanginanook School—all these schools have benefited from taxpayer funded opportunities to improve the experience of education that our children are having. We know that equality of opportunity starts not just at the school but in families. But that is an important core principle.
I also say to you that it is not good enough that we just do this here in Australia. Under our foreign aid programs we are ensuring that women and girls around the world have access to education that they've never had before in any of those parts of the world, because, regardless of your gender, you deserve the same opportunities to develop your God-given skills, no matter where you live. It shouldn't be determined by whether you were lucky enough to have been born in Australia. Wherever you were born—in the South Pacific, in Africa, in South-East Asia—if you're a girl, you should have as much opportunity to get an education as a boy.
In my area, one of the biggest things that we face is traffic congestion. Under this government we have provided $7 million to local roads. We have boosted the opportunities for and efficiency and productivity of local businesses with new phone towers at Belrose and Cottage Point. They provide assurance not only for business but also locals, so that they can always reach their friends and families, and, if an emergency occurs, they can get in touch with people.
When it comes to net zero, this government has done an extraordinary amount to give community groups, surf clubs and rural fire brigades access to the best that we can in renewable energy, including installations of new solar panels at the Newfrontiers Grace City Church, Sunnyfield and the Peninsula Senior Citizens Toy Repair Group. The skilled older retired gentlemen of the Peninsula Senior Citizens Toy Repair Group take toys that have been thrown out and rejuvenate them, fix them, paint them and send them to countries where people do not have the same opportunities that we have—once again, the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club now have solar panels on their roof provided by the Australian taxpayer, so they can spend less money on electricity and more money on saving lives. That's what this government is about. It's not about telling people what to do; it's about enabling the future, giving freedom and empowerment back to individuals. Big governments create small people. This government is about being small and making sure that we have the most empowered citizens anywhere in the world.
Ms Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I too rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022, which are the government's appropriation of money to spend on the things that it believes are the most important things to do. They provide the opportunity for us in opposition to comment on the government's decision-making—particularly, for me, when it comes to the portfolio I represent within the Labor Party: infrastructure, transport and regional development.
Before I do that, I want to make some commentary about what we're seeing in the parliament at the moment. It is very, very clear that we are only weeks from a federal election. At that election we will have a government that has been in office for nearly a decade seeking a second decade in office—a long time in government. If you didn't know that an election was imminent, you would just have to watch question time. When you see some of the ministers and the way in which they're behaving, that will show you. With that election on the horizon, we are seeing them throw out a whole lot of things—as you do—to see what's going to stick as messaging to damage Labor, whether it is the, frankly, dangerous politicisation of national security, something we unfortunately see the Liberal-National Party do often at election times, a very dangerous precedent indeed; re-announcing infrastructure projects for the third time, which we saw again on the weekend; pitting sections of the community against each other, as we saw with the Religious Discrimination Bill, as somehow a way to achieve an electoral advantage, as we saw last week; and, as we've been seeing through Senate estimates, the topping-up of slush funds in anticipation of being able to announce and spend those in the election. We've even seen the Treasurer—pretty unedifying for a Treasurer of this nation—digging up, through the dirt unit, speeches from the Leader of the Opposition from national conference and carrying on about those in parliament.
The reality is that what we're seeing from this decade-old government is a real division as they go into the election campaign, where they have members of the backbench clearly unhappy and saying so publicly. We've got leaking from cabinet at a fairly serious and senior level, including again yesterday. We've got a Prime Minister, I think, who is trying to rally the troops but is finding it very difficult to do so. That's the context in which we're going into an election. It does say everything about this government that, last night, when we had a senior journalist tweet that there was a scandal-prone cabinet minister about to go, everyone was going, 'Which one?' There are so many of them in this government who have behaved in such an inappropriate way that there were a few bets on who that might be.
In terms of the appropriations and the portfolio I represent, there are a few comments I want to make. I want to start with regional development. The damning thing about this decade-long government is that they have not had a regional economic development policy in the period that they've been in office. They've had a lot of different programs—and I will talk a bit about those programs—and there's been lots of commentary, but there actually hasn't been an overall policy for how you grow regional Australia and look at the disparate nature of regional Australia and the different natures of the economies that many of us represent across this parliament. No one political party has the monopoly on regional seats. The National Party hold some, the Liberal Party hold some, the Independents hold some and the Labor Party hold some. The thing that unites us all is that, as proud regional members, we know our economies are incredibly diverse, they have experienced disaster and COVID in different ways, and we actually do need to have a proper regional economic development policy that looks at how we maximise the contribution that our regions make to our economy as a nation and how we make sure that they are places that we can all live in.
Unfortunately, as I've said time and time again, when the National Party continues to have its hands on the regional funding buckets, the funding is simply not disbursed fairly. We've seen that particularly with the Building Better Regions Fund. We will be looking very closely at the decisions. Round 6 closed just recently. We had many local councils ringing our MPs to say, 'Is it worth us bothering to put in for this program, given our experience, over the last decade of this program, of spending huge amounts of time, money and effort to put applications in and really not getting a look-in?' Apparently, that's the way the Deputy Prime Minister thinks you look after the regions.
Ahead of the last election, we saw coalition seats and coalition target seats receiving 94 per cent of all projects and 94 per cent of all funding for the infrastructure component of the BBRF. That cannot be explained, as those opposite constantly try to do, by saying, 'We hold more regional seats.' If that's what you're going to do, Labor holds 13 per cent of the regional seats in this place, so you would think a fair distribution might be that we get 13 per cent of the funding, at least. That's certainly not what has happened. One hundred and twelve of the 330 projects approved under round 3 of the program were approved by a secret ministerial panel and against the department's own recommendations. We've had $1 billion used in a partisan political way under this government, and that has not assisted regions across the country. I have no doubt that the sixth round will be used in exactly the same way.
How does the Deputy Prime Minister think that is helping all regions across the country? If he thinks the program is good for regional Australia, he should go and say that in Bendigo and Newcastle, which have received less than $2 million, under this decade-long government, out of the program. Geelong has received just over $2 million. Lyons, in regional Tasmania, has received $5.5 million, and Dobell, on the Central Coast, has received $50,000 in funding. That's the contrast. Day after day I hear MPs on the other side getting up and saying, 'I've got this amount of money and this amount of money.' Well, that's great for you, but it's not great for every region across the country. That's why the Building Better Regions Fund has delivered $57 million to the Deputy Leader of the National Party's own electorate, $27 million to the former Leader of the National Party's electorate and $22.4 million to the current Deputy Prime Minister's electorate. There's a bit of a pattern. The fund isn't about developing regions and developing the economy of our regions; it has been used constantly for political pork-barrelling.
I can 100 per cent guarantee that, under an Albanese Labor government, we will fund programs in our regions. We will absolutely do that, but what we will not do is have the waste and rorts that we've seen under this government, which have now gone beyond the pale. I caution the government again, in the lead-up to round 6, that the Australian National Audit Office is having a look at this program. It's unfortunately not due to report until June—it was due to report in May, but that has been put back. I think you will find there will be a fair amount of scrutiny on the way in which decisions about this program have been made.
We want to have a grants program that regional communities can trust and that delivers funding through an equitable, fair and transparent process to the communities across the country that need it. That is the type of program that regional Australia, regional organisations and regional local governments are calling out for—one that they can trust, not one that sees them having to waste valuable time and money on applications that, frankly, are doomed from the start.
I'll turn away from regional, now, to look at the infrastructure programs across the country. Of course, in this appropriation bill we're talking about the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and the appropriations that come through that in particular. The day before, we saw the government again trumpeting its commitments on infrastructure. It said there'd be $1.6 billion of new spending in Queensland, $3.3 billion for New South Wales and $3 billion for Victoria, but that's not what has actually been happening—and I think this is partly the product of the government not expecting that it would win the 2019 election. It went out there and didn't negotiate, particularly with Labor states, about what it was going to spend money on. It made all of these announcements about money it was going to spend, but it has not been able to get that money out the door and deliver it.
In Queensland they've spent $30 million. That's been the investment of the Commonwealth on infrastructure. In Victoria, they've actually spent next to nothing, and in New South Wales they've spent next to nothing. In fact, they've hardly committed anything to public transport in New South Wales at all. I know infrastructure projects take time to get off the ground, but the reality is that, if you don't negotiate with states and territories about what those spends are going to be—as they didn't do in the last election campaign—you often see that money sitting in the budget and on the books for a long period of time without actually being delivered to communities. Of course, that doesn't even recognise the fact that in the last budget what this government did was cut infrastructure spending again. I quote from page 84 of Budget Paper No. 1, where it says the Infrastructure Investment Program was expected to decrease by $3.3 billion over the four years to 2023-24. It was a cut.
So we've seen a wasteful government, the most wasteful government since Federation, racking up $1 trillion of debt, but they've still managed to cut infrastructure spending in that time. Of course, as we know, the government wasn't really that worried about actually delivering infrastructure spending; it was more interested in the announcement. If you want to look at an area where this government has been pretty woeful in its capacity to actually implement programs and to actually deliver—and there are plenty; there's a big, long list—it spent an enormous amount of time advertising the Urban Congestion Fund and advertising and getting headlines for commuter car parks and all sorts of things, but the actual delivery, the actual building, has been completely and utterly woeful. After almost a decade, the government has no clear ideas left, beyond making announcements that they know they will not actually deliver and writing cheques that will never be cashed by state governments or local councils, in some instances, to build roads.
When you look at major projects, you see exactly the lack of seriousness that the government has had. I do want to say that, in terms of the Inland Rail project, which was started by Labor—that's something the Deputy Prime Minister seems to keep forgetting, that the first $1 billion of investment actually came from a Labor government—we have seen costs blow out. It's pretty extraordinary, really. They started off at $4.4 billion. Then it went to $9.3 billion. The cost blowout of Inland Rail is now $14.3 billion. That's what is sitting on the books for this program—$14.3 billion, from, initially, $4.4 billion. Incredibly, there is still no plan for where the route is going to end—or for where it starts, really, and how it's going to get to the port. This project is too important to stuff up, but, unfortunately, that has been what the government has been doing. We need to fix it.
I want to go to Labor's record on infrastructure when we were last in office. I am so proud to follow in the footsteps of the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, one of Labor's Infrastructure shadows. Hopefully, I will be able to transition, if we're fortunate enough to win government, into being Infrastructure minister. There are a few of us women in that portfolio now. I know my colleagues in WA and Victoria are two fabulous women I'm really looking forward to working with.
As we look to build back better from COVID, effective transport policy and targeted infrastructure investments are going to help build equity into the hearts of communities across Australia. We know that we need to build infrastructure so that transport is not a constraint on people's lives but, instead, an enabling force allowing them to thrive. This will see us build on our proud record.
The last Labor government more than doubled the infrastructure spend per person across the country. We doubled the roads budget and we rebuilt a third of the interstate rail network. We invested more money in public transport than all previous federal governments combined. We worked collaboratively with the states. We didn't try and pick fights with them. We invested in nation-building projects in partnership with the states, like the Pacific Highway duplication, Cross River Rail and metro projects in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. We began work on Inland Rail, and we were in the process of advancing high-speed rail.
We worked to take the politics out of infrastructure, with Infrastructure Australia, a body that, unfortunately, has been sidelined by this government. We went from 20th to second on the international league table which ranks countries by the scale of investment they're making in their infrastructure. When we left office, our nation was investing more than any other major advanced economy, with the exception of South Korea. It was a very proud record, which we intend to build on. We know how important it is not just to talk about infrastructure but to actually deliver.
After a decade, Australians know everything they need to know about this government. The government are addicted to waste, they're addicted to rorting and they're desperate to hold onto power. They pretend to be good economic managers, but all they've delivered is a trillion dollars of debt, a budget full of rorts and nothing to show for it beyond a few colour-coded spreadsheets. It is the most wasteful government since Federation and it is one that should be, by all rights, defeated resoundingly at the next election. (Time expired)
Angie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I say two words to the member for Ballarat about wasteful governments. It starts with 'pink' and ends with 'batts'. That's my retort when it comes to wasteful government, and that's what we saw last time Labor was in power in our great country. If Labor were in government now, they would have spent $6 billion on getting Australians to do what they were already going to do, which is be fully vaccinated.
It gives me great pleasure to rise and talk about these appropriation bills, to talk about what's happened in my community and on the Gold Coast in terms of government spending. Gold Coasters know that infrastructure is so important to the future of our community, with the South-East Queensland Olympics coming our way, thanks to the federal government being able to deliver that for South-East Queensland. The Gold Coast will host hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world in our beautiful city for the 2032 Olympic Games. So, of course, transport infrastructure is very, very important on the Gold Coast.
The Morrison government has a $110 billion infrastructure agenda over 10 years, and that is a considerable amount of investment across our great country. I want to talk about what's happening on the Gold Coast, specifically in my electorate of Moncrieff. The light rail from Broadbeach—Pacific Fair, for those watching—to Burleigh will now be extended from Burleigh Heads all the way to Brisbane. There's an intersection with heavy rail. Gold Coasters will be able to get on the light rail at Burleigh and go all the way through to Brisbane, which I think is very, very important for our connectivity. Certainly it's important for those who live, work and play on the Gold Coast. The Morrison government has announced additional funding of $126.6 million for the Gold Coast light rail—Minister Fletcher was in my electorate a few months ago announcing that—to make sure that we can deliver for Gold Coasters. That funding was essentially for the Queensland Labor government's cost blowout, which I will highlight to the member for Ballarat as well in terms of blowouts. That money is basically because the Queensland government haven't got around to signing up contractors for that particular six-kilometre stretch of light rail. Consequently, for the good people of the Gold Coast, taxpayers, it is costing more money, thanks to the Queensland government deciding when that will start, which always tends to somehow magically fit in with their election cycle. But it is good news for the Gold Coast that it is able to continue with that light rail. Stage 3 brings us to $395.6 million total investment from the federal government, in partnership with the state government and local council as well, to deliver the Gold Coast light rail for the constituents in Moncrieff.
Another major infrastructure project on the Gold Coast is the Coomera Connector. We have all been on the M1 going to or coming back from Brisbane. Just the other day, when my stepson came home, it took him two hours to get from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, thanks to the congestion on the M1. While we are expanding areas of the M1, all the way down through the electorate of McPherson as well—and I acknowledge the work that Minister Karen Andrews, the member for McPherson, has done for the widening of the M1 heading towards the Gold Coast airport—there is also now the Coomera Connector. I was with Minister Robert, the member for Fadden, just a few weeks ago when we announced an additional $316.1 million in infrastructure to assist Gold Coasters to get home sooner and safer, and, as the former Deputy Prime Minister would say, to avoid 'sitting in traffic and looking at bumper stickers'; I think those were his words at the time.
So no more excuses, please, from the Queensland government, in terms of delivering infrastructure for Gold Coasters. They've now got the money from the federal government. They can now put the shovels in the ground and turn some sod. Let's see that work commence.
This funding actually brings the Commonwealth government's investment in the Coomera Connector, which goes from Coomera into my electorate of Moncrieff to Nerang, to a total of $1.07 billion. It's a significant infrastructure investment in South-East Queensland, and this commitment that the Morrison government has made to South-East Queensland will make a big difference for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Tourism, of course, is very, very important to the Gold Coast. It's our primary industry. It was worth about $5 billion before COVID hit, according to federal government figures. We've been hit quite hard on the Gold Coast, and our federal government, the Morrison government, delivered a $1.2 billion tourism package, including 800,000 half-price domestic airfares. We're coming to the very end of that at the moment on the Gold Coast, so those last airfares are coming through now to help our local economy. Also $10 million from the regional tourism fund was delivered for tourism and is currently being acquitted through Destination Gold Coast, our tourism peak body. I congratulate Patricia O'Callaghan, for the work that she's done for Destination Gold Coast, and the new chair, Adrienne Readings, as well.
In terms of small business, Moncrieff has a very high concentration of small businesses—probably about double most other electorates around the country. We've got over 30,000 small businesses. The Morrison government delivered $300 million for small and family businesses, to support those businesses that have been in distress. That was on top of JobKeeper and other measures. The headline in the local paper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, was 'Feds answer SOS from Gold Coast business', and I think that just says it all. It says that our community understands that it was the federal government that kept the doors open on the Gold Coast through this pandemic, and it's the federal government continuing to keep all of the doors open on the Gold Coast for our very important business community and our small businesses across the Gold Coast but particularly in Moncrieff. As part of that, there was also a $70 million hardship program for Gold Coast businesses, which particularly helped those businesses on the border—again, in the member for McPherson's electorate—see their way through to where we're at now, with the borders having reopened.
Also we were able to deliver for our only community sporting club in Nerang. I'm very pleased that we delivered the Building Better Regions funding of $596,650—smaller amounts, as the member for Ballarat was outlining; much bigger amounts, before. But, in Moncrieff, certainly, it was $596,650, and I can say to you that Steve Condren, the manager of the Nerang Community Bowls Club, was in tears when I called him for his upgrade for his club, and the good people of Nerang will now have a much bigger clubhouse that belongs to the community. That's taxpayers' money that has gone back directly to the community, and I'm very pleased for the good people of Nerang that they'll have that. To Rob, Bob, Pete, Lyn, Rose, Luchica and Maurice out at the Nerang Community Bowls Club: it was a great pleasure to work with you—and to Regional Development Australia Gold Coast, who helped them with their application.
Regional Development Australia is an outstanding organisation. The member for Ballarat said we didn't have a regional plan. Well, I think Regional Development Australia branches and committees all over the country would take offence to that remark, because they are doing a wonderful job in our regions to help develop our communities, our infrastructure and all of those worthy projects out there in the community.
It's pretty good to talk about infrastructure, tourism and the small-business community, but there are also the arts in Moncrieff, and we know that the arts have been doing it very, very tough. As many in this place know, I'm a great supporter of the arts, having come from the arts myself. We've been able to deliver about $1.65 million, I think, during this term. Most recently, we've been able to deliver some money to Home of the Arts. I commend the City of Gold Coast for the work they've done with our new art gallery. It is a beautiful thing. It is an extra experience for tourists from all over Australia and, indeed, all over the world, who will be able to go and experience arts and culture on the Gold Coast and see how much it has gone ahead and how much it has grown up over the last decade or so.
We were able to deliver $27½ thousand directly to Home of the Arts, just in the last few months, for Friday night live sessions on the small outdoor stage on the grass. They are really going to help local musicians and local artists with their income, and they will entertain locals. I'm really looking forward to going to one of those sessions. We also delivered, for the development of a touring show called Lost in Palm Springs, $75,407 to Home of the Arts. That, again, will help them to make sure the arts are buoyed through this difficult period.
Minister Fletcher has been in my electorate quite a few times, as he does have quite a few portfolio areas, and we welcome him every time he comes. I took him through Home of the Arts, and we saw the beautiful statue of Iris. It's an incredible statue, a winged angel—a beautiful piece of art—and I encourage all Australians to pop in to HOTA and see that exhibition.
The minister has a couple of areas. He's got urban infrastructure and cities and he's also got arts and communication in his portfolio. We've been working very closely with him for his RISE Fund—the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand Fund—and we saw $200,000 go to Blues on Broadbeach, which was a fantastic festival. Congratulations to Major Events Gold Coast on putting on that show, a COVID-safe event. Much of the funding went to ensuring it was a COVID-safe event. It was very successful, and it was an event that the city needed. Broadbeach needed it at the time that it was delivered, and it helped very many small-business owners and families across my electorate to keep going at a very difficult time.
I've also got a very long list—I'm going to run out of time—of smaller amounts of funding for the arts that are certainly worthy of mentioning in this place. There was $450,000 for the beach fest, which was another event. Events on the Gold Coast are so important to the local economy and local jobs, and these smaller amounts really have helped. Kicks Entertainment received $498,402 for the Spilt Milk festival tour, delivering world-class productions for regional Queensland, the ACT and Victoria. We helped them to develop their show and take it on tour. Everybody NOW received RISE funding of $300,000 for a two-year program for South-East Queensland that engaged audiences and artists in participatory performance making—so drama there. Nautic Giants received $100,000 for an inclusive, contemporary and sustainable music festival with a focus on local talent—so important—youth opportunities, innovative environmental technologies and social accountability. And, of course, there were those other two amounts that I mentioned—the $27½ thousand and $75,407—as well for Visions of Australia and the Lost in Palm Springs exhibition.
I'll finish by saying hello to all of those at the Royal Queensland Art Society's Gold Coast branch, in Broadbeach, which I visited last week just before we came to Canberra. They received a very small grant, $3,000, for the installation of lights to improve the visual appeal of the gallery. I'm pleased to say that I purchased two small paintings and they now hang in my office here in Parliament House. Thank you to my beautiful community, and hello to all of those across the arts sector in the electorate of Moncrieff.
Matt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
This tired, old do-nothing Liberal government has run out of ideas. We will not take lectures on fiscal responsibility and defence spending from the most wasteful government since Federation—a government that will deliver $1 trillion of debt and have not merely enough to show for it. The only wedge they have left is their national security smears. Let me be abundantly clear: Labor supports the AUKUS agreement; Labor supports the current government's approach to China; and, contrary to the falsehoods of the Minister for Defence, Labor is strong on China, Labor is strong on defence and Labor is strong on national security. I know it is not fun for the nation's media to report on, and it's certainly not fun for the Prime Minister and his ministers to talk about—and I want to let you in on a little secret—that there is national unity between the major parties on defence. For the Liberals to propagate anything otherwise is a complete fallacy. Our criticism of the government on defence is when they don't live up to their own policy objectives, like in support of our Australian defence industry. In a time of geostrategic instability it is absolutely not in the interests of Australia or, indeed, our defence partners to be propagating fake news in relation to defence spending and Labor's record on defence.
Under the Rudd Labor government the average yearly increase in Australian defence spending, according to the World Bank, was up by 10.9 per cent, compared to the last budget of the Howard era, which itself had annual increases of only 7.5 per cent, even when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as major operations in Timor and the Solomon Islands, started during that period. The Abbott government not only completely dropped the ball handed to it by Labor on a replacement submarine for Collins but also cut defence spending by an annual average of 1.4 per cent. Even the Turnbull government only managed to increase spending in defence by just over half the amount of the increases of the Howard era following the Abbott reductions. Now under Scott Morrison, our Prime Minister, despite all the rhetoric, they have increased defence spending by only 1.4 per cent annually to 2020.
This Liberal government has no authority to discuss Labor's record on defence. Its record is certainly nothing to gloat about. Historically Australian governments have consistently spent on defence more than two per cent of GDP in times of uncertainty and strategic risk. Contrary to what the defence minister would like to have you think, the defence budget was above two per cent of GDP in both war and peace and under both coalition and Labor governments from World War II until the early 1990s, when every power reduced defence spending, including the US and UK, at the end of the Cold War. During the first half of the 1980s, when Australia was at peace, defence spending actually averaged 2.5 per cent of GDP. For much of the Vietnam War the defence budget was over three per cent. While we're not in a shooting war now it's reasonable to ask whether the geostrategic risks we're confronted with today are of a similar scale to those we faced in the late 1960s. It can't be denied that we are in a period of heightened tension.
As an island nation it's important that we have our own sovereign sustainment and maintenance capability with a skilled trade workforce and the technical know-how. Developing and expanding this requires Australian involvement in acquisition and build as well. The lack of oversight resulting from six ministers in eight years of this Liberal government—indeed, four defence ministers in just the last four years—has resulted in significant time frame and cost blow-outs, with local industry involvement taking a back seat. But for every cost blow-out we're seeing underspends as well, with projects not hitting the spend milestones budgeted because, even more concerningly, they are not meeting the capability, delivery and availability milestones required. Right now our defence acquisition program is predicted to come in $815 million under the original budget targets. The Liberal government's continued lack of support for the Australian defence industry has meant that work that can and should be done in Australia by Australian businesses in all levels of the supply chain is continually sent offshore. This federal Liberal government has continually mismanaged and politicised the naval shipbuilding program, as well as the acquisition of a variety of other major defence projects, to the detriment of Australia's strategic interests.
Let's take a look at what's actually going on and let's start with the latest blow-up in the press. Just yesterday we heard that the Morrison-Joyce government is continuing to scale back flying hours for the RAAF's Joint Strike Fighter, admitting that this critical platform will underperform government promises for at least the next four years. The F-35A project is currently underspending by $175 million, with only 54 aircraft delivered instead of 56 by the end of 2021-22. Two fewer aircraft may not seem like much, but with the classic Hornet fleet now fully retired as well, the Air Force needs every plane that it can get. The Joint Strike Fighter aircraft are critical for Australia's defence, and the fact that they are flying thousands fewer hours than planned is a very real concern.
The Triton high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, the UAV program, is $98 million short between equipment and infrastructure spends. Spending on the Hawkei protected mobility vehicle is $207 million short due to a delay caused by a problem with its brakes and supply chain woes. That means the project will spend less than last year, even though it's now meant to be entering full-rate production. We have the Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicle, which is nearly $300 million short of its target and spending less this year than last. Somewhat depressingly, by the end of this financial year the project will have spent more than $1.8 billion with only the first block of 25 overseas built vehicles delivered and local construction for the remainder not even due to start until 2023—that is, at least a seven-month delay. There has been a delay of up to a year in finalising design work on the second block of 186 Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles for the Army that are due to be built in Australia.
The embattled Hunter frigate program is $123 million under and will barely spend more this year than it did last year. It's not the trajectory you'd want to see as design activity ramps up and purchases of long-lead-time items such as combat systems and propulsion train elements should be starting. While the government has made a lot of announcements about long-range missiles, they haven't transformed into spending. The Navy's guided weapon subprogram is falling well short of its planned outlay, from $210 million down to just $74 million, a massive drop in program spending compared to last year. We have the classic MRH-90 helicopter failure with the project missing its target by $106 million due to a delay in its delivery schedule. Ironically, one of the few big projects that's still forecast to hit its spending target for the year is the Future Submarine program, which was cancelled less than a quarter of the way into the financial year. Seemingly, this now cancelled program is costing Australians at least $3 billion for the delivery of precisely zero submarines.
The top 30 acquisition projects in Defence are a combined $1.9 billion under their planned budget for the year. While this government propagates drums of war with increased indications of evaporating warning times and a pressing need for new capabilities to be delivered faster, instead the government is actually delivering this new capability even slower than planned. This Morrison-Joyce Liberal-National government is clearly incapable of managing its defence contracts. It's failing on all counts: overspends, underspends, cost blowouts, time blowout, project failures, all adding up to delays in providing much needed capability. Ultimately, it's the Australian Defence Force, our men and women in uniform, who suffer from a lack of availability of critical platforms due to the chronic mismanagement of defence projects under this government. This Liberal government has failed to implement or, indeed, articulate strong, measurable and enforceable Australian industry capability requirements in our defence project contracts.
Only Labor is committed to ensuring major defence project contracts contain measurable, enforceable, audited and transparent Australian industry capability requirements. Only Labor is committed to actually supporting and growing our sovereign defence industry capabilities. The government remains just announcement and spin. Be in no doubt: Labor is committed to supporting our Australian defence industry and improving our defence capability to support our men and women in uniform and ensure our national security.
Russell Broadbent (Monash, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I have not had a COVID vaccination. There seems to be great interest in my decision. On Monday I updated the House and those interested in my electorate and elsewhere that I had contracted COVID. I described what I did to treat myself during the course of my illness and the support I got from the state government, which is the standard support for every person in Victoria. It was a matter of transparency and honesty as far as I was concerned. Now I am being accused of spreading dangerous conspiracy theories, according to Dr Rob Phair, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria. I have never done this. I tell it like it is when put to me firsthand.
I have only ever put forward views of those I represent who cannot be heard otherwise—heartbreaking stories around vaccinations from both health practitioners and patients alike. I represent the views of those often ignored. People who know me know this to be true. Since when has it been the case that, if one wants to tell it like it is—not, as the media puts it, to toe the line or go after a headline—suddenly one is spreading dangerous conspiracy theories? I am not a right winger, as you know, Deputy Speaker Coulton, let alone an extremist. I am an independent thinker. I owe no-one and no-one owns me. My parliamentary colleagues know I don't fit into a box. I've crossed the floor in the past on a matter of principle. Mind you, the truth can be very threatening if one is in an environment where truth is not valued.
Why can we not have a discussion when we have a difference of opinion? Having a discussion does not cost lives. People will continue to decide what vaccines they will have, what treatments they will embrace, and good on them for doing that. That is their choice. I have never sought to influence people's choices, just made my decision based on the advice from my health practitioners, and I have been pilloried for it. I have told the House stories of reactions to the vaccine received. They are facts, not hearsay. Are we no longer able to bring to light evidence that is uncomfortable, that presents a different picture?
It is well known that fear polarises people. When did we become a fearful nation? Divisions are deep in our community and they are getting deeper. Fear undermines everything and is a powerful form of manipulation. There is an alternative. The alternative is love, for love casts out fear. We heard a lot about it in the Religious Discrimination Bill speeches, and I think the member for Burt made a marvellous contribution last week. They were probably the highlight of the 46th Parliament. We have a choice: fear or love. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance: 1 Corinthians. Love requires courage as well as compassion, which we see in everyday acts of kindness. Love knows that everyone is entitled to some respect, however great or little. Truth must win out, because it's fundamental to good governance, and the people of Australia have every right to expect it. Love, truth, respect, all underpinned with humility. Finally, wisdom—without it, we're dancing in the dark. Love, truth, respect, humility, honesty, integrity and wisdom: I look forward to seeing their manifestation in this parliament.
These are appropriation bills. So, as for these bills, I would like to say this: my concern about appropriation bills in the history of the parliament is that they are not assessed against any objective criteria. The policy targets are ambiguous and, it would appear, designed so that the outcomes cannot be tested. Economic policy, employment and national wealth are sensible criteria. What key performance indicators are used to assess the appropriation bill we're talking about today?
When it comes to social policy, those above and below the poverty line and a proportion who are excessively rich might be considered within the taxation policy. Are industry and the community measuring the impacts and outcomes in health and education policy? I worry for the poor, who seem often to bear the brunt of what I would see as poorly targeted initiatives.
On the environment, business taxation concessions and business welfare appropriations in the environment sphere are worth testing. Has the parliament suggested objective criteria? I suggest we do.
Both sides of politics complain about federal-state duplication, but what have we ever done about it? We need to test the workings of this parliament against the health, wellbeing and financial security of our First Peoples, which Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, described as unacceptable in his valedictory address. I want to take a moment here to say that the member for Lingiari is our last contact with the old House, so this is an historic day, as he is making his valedictory speech.
Of course it's unacceptable. The Australian people know it is, and they want change. We will not flourish as a nation until our generous Indigenous people enjoy the equality and respect that they deserve. I will have more to say on these fundamental issues, because they go to the heart of good governance, honesty, integrity and value for money, which all Australian citizens expect of this parliament and its parliamentarians.
Matt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Republic) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
These bills appropriate around $16 billion in 2021-2022—$11.9 billion in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and $4 billion in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022. The bills are aimed at providing for the ordinary course of the provision of government services. The Labor Party doesn't block supply in the Australian parliament, and that's why these bills will go through. But the Australian economy is in a parlous state at the moment. The budget deficit is the largest in the nation's history. Debt will get close to $1 trillion over the course of the next decade because of this government's decisions. Productivity is in crisis in Australia. We're not generating as much income per person as we used to. We're now facing the prospect of inflation, and we have skills shortages in almost all industries across the country. The number of people undertaking training, particularly through apprenticeships and traineeships, is falling under this government, and the manifest skills shortages are related to the lack of investment in training and skills.
The chickens are coming home to roost for this government's poor economic management. But it's not only their poor economic management that is a factor in the anger that we're seeing around the country in relation to the Morrison government; it's their mismanagement of the healthcare crisis and the aged-care crisis, particularly over the last six months. The government's incompetence has been on display, particularly in relation to its handling of the recent omicron COVID outbreak. Their 'she'll be right' attitude has led to crisis in health care and aged care, which has affected almost all Australians over the course of the last six months.
In health care, it's now evident that the Morrison government was woefully ill-prepared for the outbreak of the omicron variant in Australia. It's not like they didn't have ample warning. We knew the outbreak was coming to Australia. Epidemiologists and health experts were saying it wouldn't be stopped at the border. We saw the outbreak in South Africa and how it swamped their healthcare system. We knew that it was much more contagious than the delta variant, so Australia had ample warning.
The Prime Minister and the government were warned back in October last year, by health officials and by a parliamentary committee which made recommendations around Australia's preparedness, that it would hit Australia, that it would be more contagious and that it would put enormous pressure on our healthcare system, particularly our hospital system. They recommended that rapid antigen tests be the preferred method of testing people for COVID, yet the government, we now know, did not get out ahead of it and order enough rapid antigen tests to cater for the wave that was coming. Basically the government ignored the advice that they were given around preparedness for the omicron outbreak.
The Prime Minister, rather foolishly, supported state premiers who were 'letting it rip' and opening up too quickly. A classic example of that was in New South Wales. The Premier, Dom Perrottet, got to December and wanted the political advantage of being able to say to people, 'We're now free; we're opening up for Christmas and the summer period,' and let it rip. They basically removed all restrictions. Masks were gone. Checking in was gone. Person limits indoors were gone. Everything was open. You could go to nightclubs and everything. It was all done in one go. Despite the fact that we knew what was coming from South Africa, they still made that decision, backed by the Prime Minister. Never forget that the Prime Minister came out and backed the New South Wales Premier, saying that he was making the right decision and it was time to release Australians from those restrictions.
We now all know what happened. Omicron spread like wildfire. It hit and it became rampant. Our testing facilities simply couldn't cope. We had these outrageous scenes of people lining up, with their kids, in cars for five or six hours to get tested, only to get to the front of the queue and be told that the facility had closed and they had to go away and try again the next day. I'll never forget the phone calls and emails from constituents—red-hot anger with the government about their mishandling of testing and their response to omicron.
Then the Prime Minister developed policy on the run, saying to people: 'If you've got symptoms, you don't need to worry about going to get a PCR test anymore; you can get a rapid antigen test.' They changed the rules quite quickly, and that just confused people. It went against everything that governments and health experts had been saying about the importance of getting PCR tests. They said now, 'You should go and get rapid antigen tests.' But there was one problem: you couldn't get them. You couldn't buy them anywhere, come hell or high water. They were rare as hen's teeth. I remember visiting a few pharmacies over that period when the demand for rapid antigen tests was through the roof. You would walk into a pharmacy and all you would hear was the phone ringing—the phone ringing constantly—and those pharmacists having to pick up the phone and say, 'No, we don't have any; try again in a week,' and not being able to do their ordinary jobs. That was a symptom of ill-preparedness.
We had this quick spike in cases that put pressure on our healthcare system, particularly our hospitals. I spoke to a couple of ICU nurses who work at the Prince of Wales Hospital. They were literally run off their feet. They were worried about their patients and about the capacity of the healthcare system, because you had other ICU nurses either getting COVID or being close contacts and being out of action for a week. That meant that the ICUs were understaffed, and the hospital administrations were bringing in nurses from other areas who weren't trained or specialised in the ICU. One of those nurses said to me: 'It's useless. It's basically like asking you to come and work as a nurse in the ICU. If you haven't been trained in that area, and you don't know how to operate the equipment and you don't know the procedures and protocols, you're basically just getting in the way.' That is what was occurring. That is unforgivable, because that's risking the health and safety of the Australian public.
Is it any wonder that nurses went on strike in Sydney yesterday in their thousands? They are fed up. They have had enough of the Morrison government and the Perrottet government being ill-prepared to plan for COVID, to support the healthcare system and to support our frontline workers during this difficult time. I want to make it clear that I support our nurses. I supported them taking industrial action yesterday. I support their claims for ratios and fair pay, because they deserve it, as do other healthcare workers and other frontline staff who have been working around the clock to keep our country going.
The aged-care sector was in crisis prior to omicron; but omicron has made acutely visible all of the problems that we have in our aged-care sector, and it's now at breaking point. There's a staffing crisis in aged care that has now been uncovered. It's been there for a long time, but it's now been uncovered for all to see. For years aged-care staff have been overworked and underpaid, with many of them having to work two jobs—because they've been put on as casuals—just to try and make ends meet. They're working extra shifts and having to work in other jobs just to feed their families. When they raised these concerns prior to COVID, what was the government's response? They didn't care. This government didn't care. They didn't back workers. When are they going to back workers and their union? When the aged-care cases came before the Fair Work Commission, do you think the Morrison government or the Turnbull government or the Abbott government ever intervened to say, 'Yes, these workers deserve better pay and better conditions?' Of course not. They opposed them. They opposed those Fair Work claims, those work-value claims in the Fair Work Commission. Then, when omicron hits and staff or their close contacts get sick, what happens? You get shortages, you get elderly residents being locked in their rooms without the basic care that they deserve, and the crisis in the system is uncovered.
In one case I was contacted by a constituent in our area about an aged-care facility in our community that requested that visitors pay $11 just to visit their relatives. I want to read this e-mail from Alan in my electorate. It says: 'We received this e-mail from the aged-care facility that our very close friend is at in Little Bay. They are asking that we pay $11 every time we wish to visit her. She has no family. My wife and I are the closest thing that she has, and we've known her for 68 years. We're both pensioners, and the cost of this will severely limit our ability to be able to visit her regularly. We feel that it's outrageous to ask this amount of people who are the only contact to the outside world for these people in care.' That's what our healthcare system has come to under this government—asking relatives and close friends to pay to go and visit their loved ones! That is an absolute disgrace.
Now you've got the government attempting to bribe aged-care workers with two $400 retention payments. Well, guess what? It's too little, too late. Why weren't you supporting their Fair Work claims, their work-value cases, when they were moving these amendments in the Fair Work Commission years ago? Why weren't you out there supporting aged-care workers when they were saying to you years ago, before COVID hit, that the system was in crisis? The government pay lip-service to workers in the aged-care sector, and now all Australians are suffering because of it.
The measure of a country is how well you look after your most vulnerable citizens, particularly the poor and the elderly. Australia used to take pride in the fact that we had a very strong healthcare system, underpinned by Medicare and universal access, and an aged-care system that ensured that all had access to decent care. But now Australians are starting to ask themselves: what happened to that wonderful healthcare system that we built through Medicare, and what happened to the care that we used to show for Australians who are vulnerable in their elderly years? It's been undermined by this government. It's been destroyed by this government, and its about time that Australians saw writ large what has been occurring not only in economic management but in our healthcare system and our aged-care system. Hopefully they will say, come the election: It's now time for a change. It's now time to put back in place the policies that ensure we look after our most vulnerable through health care and aged care.
Anne Webster (Mallee, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I remember, in July 2019, finally being called the member for Mallee. Mine was the last seat in Australia to be named and declared, so I was very proud in that moment to step into this role. It has been an incredible journey over the last 2½ to three years. My colleagues who have been around for some time say there has never been one like it. In December, I put together 12 newsletters for my 12 shires. In the newsletters, I talked about what has actually been achieved. It's been really easy, in the last two years in particular, to be quite downward looking—to look at how difficult things are, how challenging they are—and there's been much justifiable criticism of a lot of handling that has gone on. But there's also been some excellent work that has gone on, and I've got to say that our government has achieved a tremendous amount in very trying times.
Today I want to talk about some of the achievements that the people of Mallee have experienced in the last, nearly, three-year period. It's about delivery, and, as a local member, I am really proud to say that over $2 billion has been delivered in the electorate of Mallee. There was $626 million in direct support distributed for businesses throughout COVID and for employers to be able to keep their staff paid, if not working. There has been $472 million invested in roads. That's a tremendously important focus for the people of Mallee. We are 83½ thousand square kilometres; there are a lot of roads. While $470 million doesn't go all the way to repairing every road, we're still on track. We have many huge trucks, big B-doubles, that traverse all the small roads across Mallee, which therefore need constant upgrading. That work continues.
We've also had $26 million delivered through drought recovery. This has been an incredibly important fund and program for many shires in Mallee. Many pieces of infrastructure and a lot of support for organisations throughout Mallee have come from this drought funding, and shires have been incredibly grateful. We've also expended $440 million on the Murray Basin Rail Project. That's not to say that it's been delivered. There has been a lot of pushback from the state government, and the work is yet to be completed. But I want the people of Mallee to know that I am very focused on that work being completed, and I will see it through. We've also distributed $60 million for healthcare improvements across Mallee, and I want to touch on some of those shortly.
There has been $15 million invested in our telecommunications. Anyone in Mallee who traverses the highways and byways or the small towns and back paddocks knows just how difficult connectivity is. So I am really thrilled that $15 million has been invested. There is so much more work to be done, and I was very pleased to work with Julian Leeser, my colleague, recently to address the issue of connectivity. Again, it's another topic and another issue that we have to remain focused on to see improvements for regional areas.
Into the details: I have 12 wonderful shires, and one of them is the Hindmarsh Shire. There have been funds delivered for childcare services, as well as $11.5 million for roads and bridges. I was very pleased to be on site to do the first sod turn for the Albacutya Bridge. Unfortunately I could not be there for the demolition of the old bridge. It was an incredible piece of architecture, so I was very sad not to see it come down. But the new bridge is on its way, and it will provide safety for those who need to use that bridge for their businesses and farms and for tourism. The Wimmera River Discovery Trail received $600,000. Tourism in our regional centres is actually pivotal for keeping our economy ticking over. The Wimmera River is just another one of our beautiful rivers; it is just iconic. I had the joy of opening the Dimboola Community Civic Hub. There was $600,000 invested by our government in this particular project, and the locals love it. It's another opportunity for tourism and for people to enjoy the spaces in Dimboola.
Of course, there is more work to be done. I have to confess I made a mistake and reported that I had funded a particular project called the Davis Park Precinct, and that hadn't actually happened. You do a lot of work in this House, and occasionally you slip up, and that was a slip-up for me. So I'm fighting very hard for that project to be delivered because it's incredibly important to the people of Nhill.
Loddon shire has received $14.5 million for the Mitiamo and District Reticulated Water Supply Project. If we don't have water, we don't have life. Our communities can't live. Our farms can't grow. I was so thrilled to be down there with the previous Deputy Prime Minister to announce this particular project. It's part of our national water grid and an incredibly important investment. Loddon shire has also received $22.6 million for its roads. The local council have loved—all my local councils have loved—the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program because it's given them the ability to pinpoint their own projects. It hasn't been tagged or tied to any particular outcome, but they have been able to achieve a tremendous amount of work that really matters to the locals who live in those regions. So that's another one. For Donaldson Park in Wedderburn, there was $2.5 million. Our sporting precincts matter enormously not just to people who play sport but to their families and to communities in small towns. They really are the epicentre.
An honourable member: And tennis courts.
And tennis courts, absolutely. Pyrenees shire has received $14.3 million for roads. Roads are something that I think every member in this House hears about; they matter. When you're driving on bad roads, it's no good for your car and it's certainly no good for the occupants. So road investments have been significant in this period of time. The Lexton Community Hub has received $2.7 million. Then there is the Waubra Bowls Club, $300,000, and the Avoca walking track and bike paths—things that get us out into our communities, again increasing tourism for our smaller towns.
Buloke shire, a wonderful shire up in the north of my electorate, have received $450,000 for childcare services, a vital piece of investment so that young families can get on with their lives—so that their children are cared for and parents can go back to work. If we do not have child care in these smaller towns, it hinders our productivity more generally. Charlton Park and the Charlton Harness Racing Club are two pieces of investment by this government that are just a sight to behold. I was totally delighted to go to the Charlton Park site for the opening—there were crowds there—and I will be going to a race meet down there very soon. The Buloke shire did receive $4.3 million under the Drought Communities Program and have expended that funding—again, on projects that they want to spend it on. Our local shires are so important to really understanding what's going on on the ground and where the priorities are. Buloke has also received another $2.4 million for community infrastructure.
Central Goldfields Shire, down in the south-east of my electorate, have received $10.3 million for roads and bridges. One of the first things that I heard about when I stepped into this role, from very passionate locals, was the Carisbrook levee and how important that was. The flood that happens once in a hundred years down there completely messes up that area when it happens, and it happened recently. I fought hard for the $1.2 million for that levee, and I'm really pleased to see that that work is going ahead. In aged care, the Havilah aged-care facility in Maryborough received $4.96 million. We've talked today about aged care, and it's on all of our minds just how important our aged-care facilities are for our seniors. So to see investments in aged-care facilities across Mallee—there are several; this is one of the key ones—is very exciting, and I think it shows the commitment that we have to improving our aged-care services.
The Central Goldfields also received $120,000 for community halls. I've got to say: it just was elevated in the community; they just loved all of these halls. There were five of these halls that were done up—they were painted or had a new kitchen—and they really are the epicentre of small communities. The communities can meet there for dances—the old country dances, which I well remember—and for events with their sporting clubs or community groups. So they were very excited about this funding. All that work has been done, and I've seen much of it.
Gannawarra Shire received $15 million for roads and bridges. Gannawarra Shire also has a huge area around Kerang which is a huge development for renewable energy, and we have a focus on that being able to be uplifted onto the grid and made valuable. That's a space to continue watching. We are investing in that space.
In the Kerang Christian College, $1.23 million was invested. They are proud of that work. I was pleased to be at the opening of that. It's a very vibrant school, with a wonderful science lab now. So STEM is on its way in Kerang Christian College.
For the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District channel embankment infrastructure, $3.5 million has been delivered. Eleven thousand irrigators rely on the water in that region, and they are doing a wonderful job.
The ag shows in Gannawarra Shire received $475,000, to Cohuna, to refurbish their showgrounds and facilities. Our local shows and ag field days have suffered terribly over the last three years. Many of them have not been able to operate at all. So this kind of investment by the Morrison-Joyce government in our shows has kept them going and has given them not just something to do but something to actually keep them afloat through this period of time. We expect them to come back in a vibrant way in 2022.
Swan Hill region has received $83 million in roads and bridges. Sixty million dollars was committed to the Swan Hill Bridge, and if the states could get their acts together that would be fantastic and this bridge could be built. It has had a tremendous amount of go-slow on it, with the heritage listing and needing to sort out which bridges are going to be replacing which priority in the heritage listing. Hopefully, we will see that work begin soon. It's not for want of passion and interest in it in the Swan Hill Council; they are very passionate about this project. And locals want to see it delivered.
We've also delivered $30 million to the Swan Hill hospital. It's the remit, of course, of the state government, but our $30 million meant that the state government finally stepped up and also promised $17.8 million. The emergency department at Swan Hill hospital I have spoken about before: it would bring you to tears if you walked in there. That money is very well spent. Here I go again! We want to see the state government pay attention to our regional hospitals. They need funding. They need a focus. And I would urge the Victorian state government to look beyond the halo of Melbourne.
Susan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
This time two years ago, I was pleading with the Morrison government to provide bushfire recovery support for the communities hit by the Gospers Mountain fire. That was not just for the communities that burned, where people experienced the trauma of being surrounded by flames and saw their homes or their neighbours' home in ashes and had their properties smouldering for days. And it was not just for the bushland in that World Heritage Area, where valley and ridgeline after valley and ridgeline were reduced to just blackened trunks, and where native animals—koalas, snakes and lizards, wombats, possums, kangaroos and birds—were all gone or dead. It was also for the small businesses whose hopes of a good summer went up in smoke as people stayed away long after the fires had stopped.
This time two years ago, 300 small businesses in the upper mountains had met with me to share their pain and their ideas about how we could move forward. Since then, fire affected communities from the mountains to the Hawkesbury have had to keep asking, keep waiting and keep holding on as they have come to terms with so much of the recovery from fire having to wait. Only last week I was able to connect another elderly landowner still without fences from those fires two years ago with the wonderful Rough Track kids, who've been helping to replace fences destroyed by fires and, more recently, floods.
There are some communities who'll be very happy to see projects announced in the latest bushfire recovery funding—from the tourism sector in Katoomba, grateful that the street heading down to the iconic Three Sisters will become tree-lined eventually and that the much-missed Winter Magic Festival gets a boost, through to the tough-as-boots Kurrajong Heights and Bilpin communities, who may end up with a community centre that actually meets their needs, and the Macdonald Valley, where the tiny St Albans and surrounding community are still finding their feet not just from fire but from two floods, and they'll see things like an upgrade to their community hall. I thank these communities for their patience. I know that the hundreds of times I've spoken for you and about you in this place—whether it was the nagging or the pleading, the anger or the despair—have been because I saw your resilience to what you'd been through as the months postdisaster dragged on.
The projects that have been announced are some of the sorts of projects that those of us in bushfire areas have urged the government to fund, and the millions are welcome—although we could have seen them a year ago rather than on the eve of an election. I hate to consider the possibility that the Morrison government held off announcing this round of projects, which we were told would actually be pre-Christmas announcements, until now, a few weeks away from an election day. That would be absolutely disrespectful to my community, to what they've gone through. I also am aware that there are very good projects that have missed out, and we'll continue to work for the funding that these communities need.
There is a whole stage of work, though, that hasn't happened yet in our region, moving beyond recovery to preparation and mitigation, and that applies to floods, fires and storms. The Emergency Response Fund of $4 billion, which I have spoken about often—I voted to create this fund—I saw as an amazing opportunity to get mitigation and preparation projects happening in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury. But not a single cent of it has been spent. It has accrued more than $800 million in interest in the two years plus it has been around. There have been plenty of opportunities for it to be invested, and it is a crying shame that it hasn't been spent on improving telecommunications, on creating safer places, on creating evacuation centres.
It is also a shame that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to visit any of these bushfire affected areas and speak directly to the people who are still recovering. Anyone who's been through a massive trauma like fires the like of which we saw would know that, two years on, it is still fresh; there's a really long way to go. I would urge him to speak with people.
When we talk about fires in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains, we can't forget that we also face floods. A year ago, a really big flood hit the region. One hit the area two years ago, after the bushfires, but 12 months later it was followed by another one. At the weekend, I met a couple in Lower Portland. They have still not received a cent of support to restore their land. They have agricultural land, and they are two of a number of people. In an area like mine we don't necessarily have massive rural plots. They're small rural landholdings relative to other parts of the country. While there's been a lot of talk of funding, it just hasn't eventuated. The tightness of the rules means that things are designed for big rural properties, which leads to smaller farms and producers just falling through the cracks. For instance, people who are breeding prize-winning cattle or champion horses for dressage don't necessarily meet the criteria, and that means many have been overlooked. There really is no point in making promises to people, putting it out there, only for people to find out that they fall through the cracks.
I know we can do disaster recovery much better. I know Labor would do disaster recovery much better, with more flexibility so that you could consider a person's situation holistically. I will never forget that the day after my house burnt down in 2013 the Liberal government made a decision to reduce the amount of support available for people who'd been affected by that fire. That was a deliberate decision, and it affected hundreds and hundreds of people who under the new rules were no longer able to seek any emergency assistance. That set the tone for what I have seen from a disaster management perspective. I do want to acknowledge that David Littleproud as minister worked very closely with me in the early stages of the post-fire recovery; however, many of the promises have not been fulfilled. The relationship with New South Wales remains a challenge, and these are things that Labor can do better.
One of the things that leaves my community most vulnerable in a disaster is mobile phone coverage and a poor NBN service. The NBN was never about downloading movies; it was about being able to do high-speed uploads and downloads so you could run businesses, you could access doctors via telehealth and, as COVID showed people who had no imagination to understand it beforehand, you could work from home, do school from home and stay connected to the world while stuck at home. Macquarie has had a mishmash of NBN technologies dumped on it. Not only is fibre to the premises not being used to its full potential but we have the dud copper based fibre to the node, the fragile fibre to the curb and two technologies that simply don't do the job, wireless and satellite. Wireless can't meet the data demands and is congested, while Sky Muster users remain frustrated by not enough data, high latency and dropouts.
The aim of Labor in government would be to increase the spread of fibre. We need to have fibre use spread way further than it currently is, and we've already announced that fibre-to-the-node customers will be able to upgrade to fibre to the premises as we'll run fibre past another 1.5 million homes. That's a start. The rollout of the NBN has been botched by the Liberals and has actually left many in my community more vulnerable during fires and storms than they were before. Fancy that—2022 and we are more vulnerable! Tens of thousands of FTTC and if FTTN customers no longer have landlines and so, when the power goes, so do our phone lines. Don't just say, 'Use your mobile.' Filling the gaps in our mobile coverage has been one of the Morrison government's biggest failures of all. Its own regional telecommunications review, which I made a submission to, highlighted that under this government there's been a patchwork quilt approach to connectivity in the regions, including mine. The report found that in instances of natural disasters and emergencies, connectivity is significantly impacted by power and network outages. It reduces access to recovery and support, and that's what's so disappointing about the government's response to the natural disasters that we've had in the last few years.
There has been no significant investment in improving our ability to communicate. Despite royal commissions and inquiries, advocacy from fire affected MPs and a general hue and cry about it, all we see is the odd mobile phone tower being added and incremental improvements. The 2013 Blue Mountains fire was a wake-up call to improve telecommunications for places like Hawkesbury Heights, Winmalee and Yellow Rock. We lost no lives, but we could well have, and one of the key takeouts for locals was that we really need solid and reliable phone connections. The landlines we had back then meant people could phone neighbours, even when the mobile signal was crowded and only texts would get through. But today, eight years on, there are hundreds of people like me who are now without landlines and can't get a mobile phone signal in their home when the power goes off.
This government always leaves things till it's too late and then does too little. Surely it won't take a more deadly bushfire in our region for them to wake up to the need for mobile coverage with improved reach and resilience, with batteries that survive power cuts. Telstra doesn't always get the best rap, but I want to thank them for responding to my relentless push to have some of the issues addressed in the very rural parts of my electorate. Thanks to them there is some progress, but we're a long way from good enough, let alone resilient. There's so much more that a good government would be doing to keep the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury safe, and that's what Labor will do.
I want to talk about the recovery of koalas. Of course, when we talk about koalas we know that many other animals need the same habitat that koalas do, but we use it as an iconic species. Koalas have been under pressure from a range of threats, including chronic habitat loss due to development. That then drives other threats, like dog attacks and being hit by cars, plus diseases such as chlamydia, and now we have extreme weather events under climate change.
The Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury have turned out to be critically important for koalas. The work of Science for Wildlife since 2014 shows that the area is a potential refuge for koalas under climate change, as habitats out west become less suitable for koalas and habitats to the east, including in the Hawkesbury, are under increasing human-development pressures. We have the most genetically diverse koalas in the country, making them vital for conservation. Dr Kellie Leigh describes them as 'a hidden bunch of rule-breaking koalas who've not read the literature on koala ecology'. Thank goodness! They occupy habitats that we didn't even know they could use. They thrive on trees that grow in dubious-quality soil types, she says. Some live above 1,000 metres altitude, and they get snowed on.
The modelling that predicts the extinction of koalas by 2050 was largely based on land-clearing rates, and it was done before the bushfires. These growing populations were seen as a source of hope, free from the threat of development. The bushfires showed is just how big a threat climate change really is. Not only does the habitat loss have to stop. Dr Leigh say we need to actively manage koalas and their remaining habitats. Listing the koala as 'vulnerable to extinction' didn't reverse the trend of decline, over the last few years, and the Morrison government failed to take the steps that were needed. Will uplisting to 'endangered' be enough for them to act? Looking at their track record, there is no evidence of that at all. To move koalas back off the endangered list and away from the threat of extinction, we need to increase koala numbers.
The government sat on the uplisting announcement for three months before turning it into a photo opportunity. When Labor's National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy ended, in 2014, the Morrison-Joyce government never got around to replacing it—that's eight years of failure—and there is still no recovery plan in sight. This is a government that always does too little too late and doesn't listen to the experts. At a national level, the Liberals are not serious about saving koalas. At a local level, in the Hawkesbury, the Liberals are not serious about saving koalas. Anyone who claims to care about koalas but hypocritically supports measures to clear valuable habitat without seeking any expert input cannot be taken seriously. It does feel like the jeweller Tiffany, with fundraising from its diamond koala brooch, is doing more to save the koala than nearly a decade of Liberals have done. (Time expired.)
Michael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
At the outset, I commiserate with the member for Macquarie on losing her house in 2013. I know what it's like to have your house robbed. Mine was in 2012. You feel a sense of violation. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose your premises to a fire. My thoughts go out to you. No doubt that's some time ago and you've recovered from that. That is why this government and indeed all governments of all political persuasions have made an extra effort to help people—as you would expect us to do—recover from those deadly bushfires.
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022 seek authority from the parliament to provide for additional expenditure, further funding on top of the normal budgetary process—of course, the budget handed down by Treasurer Frydenberg in May last year—and the appropriation coronavirus response bills in February 2022. Bill No. 3 proposes appropriations of about $11.9 billion and bill No. 4 proposes $4 billion. It's significant and necessary that we do so.
I want to talk a bit about mobile phone communications. I appreciate the member for Macquarie has made comments from her Labor talking points in relation to this. We are up to round 6 of the Mobile Black Spot Program. Nearly 1,000 mobile base station towers have been erected in regional Australia. There are 1,200 that have been funded, so another 200 are to come online in the coming weeks and months. This is a significant investment in mobile communications of regional Australia not only for safety aspects but also for convenience for regional Australians. I know this all too well. I appreciate that there are many black spots within my Riverina and central west electorate. They are still there, and we are working towards making sure that we address that. I'm pleased that the then leader of the New South Wales Nationals, John Barilaro, said last year that they were aiming to make New South Wales black spot free by 2023. I welcome that commitment, and I look forward to working with the coalition government in Macquarie Street to help achieve that aim. Australia has such diverse geography and topography that making the entire continent black spot free is a dream. It's a very difficult reality to actually achieve, but we're working towards it. Compare and contrast what we've done, the commitment we've made and the investments we've contributed with what Labor did in the six years that they were in power here in Canberra. Not a cent was spent on a mobile tower in country areas. This was such a shame.
I appreciate what the member for Macquarie said too about the NBN and making sure we have the rollout of telecommunications in that regard. She used the word 'mishmash'. When we took over in 2013 it was a mishmash. I can recall well in Wagga Wagga that there were many holes dug and many channels in the ground but not too much optic fibre in those holes. It was very much a mishmash when we took over. We have done what you would expect the coalition government to do—that is, fix the gaps within the system to make sure that people get a good service.
I want to talk about the investments in my local area. They have been significant. Like in all other electorates throughout the country, not just regional electorates but city electorates as well, such as Bennelong, we have made significant investment in making sure that communities can be their best selves and making sure that we have the right infrastructure. We are making sure that in city areas we bust through congestion and in country areas we are making sure that we improve and enhance connectivity. That goes to not just road and rail but other ways and means as well.
In Wagga Wagga the federal government has contributed $10 million to the PCYC building just near Robertson Oval in the heart of the city. This is a significant investment—more than $20 million. Local, state and federal governments have contributed towards that. I appreciate that the police citizens youth clubs are and always have been very much state funded organisations. They do so much work through the New South Wales officers who are attached to that fine organisation. Seeing the difference they make to youth—to keeping youth active and out of trouble—the government invested $10 million into that project in Fitzhardinge Street. It is going up. It's very impressive. It's three storeys. Already we've got the steel structure up, using local contractors, using local small businesses. That's going to be a very exciting development for our city.
Ten million dollars has gone to a company in Wagga Wagga, run by Sam Turnbull, called Flipscreen. Flipscreen is a very innovative company. This grant—and another one, of $824,791—is going to enable Flipscreen to build and market a new on-site crushing system for the mining and recycling industries. Flipscreen has engineered and invented a crusher bucket. It achieves high-volume crushing rates with a significantly larger range of crush sizes compared to competing products. It is exporting these around the world. It is going to create hundreds of jobs in Wagga Wagga. The company is based in Copland Street, in Wagga Wagga's eastern industrial estate. It's going to put the 'made in Wagga Wagga' brand around the world. That's fantastic, and I commend Mr Turnbull and chief financial officer Daniel Jones for their initiative and vision to make Wagga Wagga a manufacturing hub for these crusher buckets and for so many other associated industries that will feed into the process. That is a great thing. These machines can screen up to 3,000 tonnes of material per hour. Compared to what is currently available, that is a major step forward. Well done to Flipscreen, who are proud to call Wagga Wagga home. I'm proud to say that the federal government has invested into that business.
Another company that I'm really proud to say that the government has supported—with grants of $369,000 through Accelerating Commercialisation and a further $100,000 through the Business Research and Innovation Initiative—is Zetifi, run by Dan Winson. It is improving connectivity for those in rural and regional areas, particularly farmers. As I said before, at the present time we haven't got every black spot covered, but Zetifi provides the technology and innovation that enable many farmers who don't have the connectivity that they would desire to do their business via the phone when they're up the paddock, when they're in remote locations on their stations. Zetifi is providing those options and those opportunities for farmers, not just in the Riverina and the central west but right across our broad land.
We as a government have paid particular attention, during the coronavirus, to organisations that would sometimes be forgotten or missed, such as movie theatres, particularly those picture theatres in country areas, which have done it really tough during COVID, because of course you couldn't go to the pictures. It has been very, very difficult. We now have the SCREEN Fund, the Supporting Cinemas' Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods Fund—there's a title for you! Yesterday I talked to two local cinema operators: Craig Lucas of Forum 6 Cinemas at Wagga Wagga, who have received $85,000 through the SCREEN Fund round 2, and Kate Sproston, manager of Southern Cross Theatre at Young, who have received $35,000 in that program. The Wagga Wagga cinema employs up to 30 staff, not all of them full time, many of them university students. For many of them that would be a part-time job. That picture theatre and the one at Young, which employs 40 to 50 volunteers, provide such great entertainment for locals. Making sure that those picture theatres continue to run is really significant, because they've been hard-hit through the coronavirus.
To that end, late last year, in December, I was really pleased to attend the official opening of the Tivoli theatre in the historic Masonic Hall at West Wyalong. It received funding of $150,000 from the federal government, $450,000 from the New South Wales government and $300,000 from nearby Evolution Mining. Is a very well-turned-out picture theatre. They revitalised it and brought it back to life. It is a grand venue. They have restored it to its 1920s glory. Bland shire is very proud of this particular facility. It will not only provide state-of-the-art cinema; it will also be used as a multipurpose function centre for all of those activities in and around Wyalong and West Wyalong and the wider Bland shire.
To that end, even little grants don't go unnoticed. The Cowra amateur musical and dramatic society received $5,000 from the 2021 volunteer grants program. That mightn't seem so much when you're talking about Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022, which total around $15 billion. But $5,000 for those dedicated volunteers means all the difference, because they can get on with practising Shakespeare instead of selling raffle tickets at the pub on a Friday night. They're just wonderful people. Like all of those people in all of our electorates, those volunteers—those people who run these little community organisations—you can't do without them. They are so fantastic. They bring live theatre and performances to Cowra, which is a fantastic community. It's a community, like all of those in my electorate, that is so multicultural. Each year Cowra hosts a festival of international understanding, highlighting a different country each and every year.
Of course, Cowra is home to the peace bell, which is gonged at said festival. Cowra started this initiative on the back of the breakout from the internment camp during World War II, when many Japanese occupants broke out one night. There was an incident there when many people were killed, including Australians, Australian soldiers who had been fortifying that internment camp. You would have thought, from that, that there would be hostilities between Japan and Cowra, in particular, and Australia, in general, but, no; Cowra has forged great ties between itself and Tokyo. The Japanese war cemetery is maintained by, again, volunteers, who do such a power of work. I was proud to fund the reroofing of the visitor centre at the Japanese gardens. They are one of the biggest attractions for that town. The links, the bonds that have been forged between Cowra and Japan are very special. They've put aside the hostilities. They've put aside that dreadful night in World War II. From that, they've built a festival of peace and understanding. That, I think, speaks volumes of the people of Cowra and their ability to embrace peace, to embrace friendship and to put that conflict during the Second World War aside.
This government will continue to provide investment and infrastructure right across our regions, right across our country. Appreciating that the election is but a few short months away, people should know that this government has their back. These have been very difficult times. I feel for the Prime Minister, who has led the country through the bushfires, through drought, through mice plagues, through floods and through COVID-19. It has been very difficult. I was there right beside him for much of that as Deputy Prime Minister, and I'm proud of the way our government responded quickly and effectively to all those crises.
Sitting suspended from 12:59 to 16:00
Julie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I understand that in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022 there is about $16 billion for various things—purchases and services—that the government needs to provide. Of course, as is usual practice, we won't hold up supply and we will support these bills, but it would be remiss of me to not talk about some of the government services and supplies that these appropriation bills are referring to.
In recent weeks and months we've seen more evidence of the Prime Minister and the government not doing their job. We have seen Australian citizens let down again by this government and this Prime Minister. Anybody who listened to the Prime Minister prior to the opening of the state borders last year heard him talk a big game about what a great Christmas we were all going to have, but then of course we saw the pictures—and some of us saw it in real life—of the queues of people trying to access tests around the Christmas period and the overload on our systems. Then we had the lack of access to rapid antigen tests, or RATs. Everybody knows how difficult it was to get these. A number of pharmacies and chemists had signs up saying that they didn't have any supply.
We said to the government, 'You really should be able to provide them under Medicare like you do the PCR tests.' I still don't understand the difference between getting a rapid antigen test and getting a PCR test and why the government pays for one and not the other, particularly when the rapid antigen tests are cheaper than the PCR tests under Medicare. I also don't understand why the government purchased those rapid antigen tests so late in the piece. We were opening up in December and most of the tests were not ordered until January. How did this happen when the government was getting so many warnings last year? All the other countries overseas were using rapid antigen tests for many months prior to Australia making a decision to open.
We heard from the Prime Minister: 'Maybe I shouldn't have been so optimistic. We didn't know omicron was coming.' What an absolute load of rubbish! We did know omicron was coming. We did know that we'd need rapid antigen tests. The Prime Minister wants to pretend that it's all very well with hindsight. He knew. He got multiple warnings from the Australian Medical Association. We could see what was happening overseas. We still don't have a proper answer as to why enough of them were not ordered in time.
It's not just the rapid antigen tests that the Prime Minister has let us down on. There are of course the booster shots. Trying to get family members a booster shot has been unbelievably difficult. I still have today family members who can't get in to get a booster shot. They are now waiting another week or two to get their booster. This is still happening today in Australia—people are not able to access a booster shot. We were all told: 'You can go out and get a booster shot. We're opening up to this. We're moving it from four months to three months. Everybody can go and get them.' That is not true. It's not that easy to get a booster shot.
Pharmacists are working so hard trying to give the vaccine to as many people as they possibly can as quickly as they possibly can, but they too were let down by the government. They were let down by the government when it came to the booster shots and how we could get them in people's arms. The government changed the time frames and said everybody could go and get them. They kept changing the rules to get people through quicker, but they didn't make better provision for people to be able to get their booster shot. They didn't make sure that there was a surge workforce to give all of these injections.
So we had a complete failure on the booster shots and a complete failure on the rapid antigen tests. This, of course, is because, as we were told last year, 'It's not a race.' It originally was not a race to get everybody vaccinated, according to the Prime Minister. We have been continually let down by this government.
The other place that we've been really dramatically let down has been in the aged-care system. I want to pass on my sympathies and condolences to all of those families who have lost loved ones during this particular outbreak. In January I talked to some of the aged-care providers in my electorate and in my home state of Tasmania about just how difficult this has been for them. They were getting confusing advice. There were not enough rapid antigen tests for staff and for residents. The advice about whether every resident needed to be tested if there was an outbreak, or every staff member, or just those on shift—it was a shemozzle. There was a lack of clear direction coming from the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth runs aged-care services. Again, we have an incompetent minister who, for some reason, is still in the job, which I just can't fathom. I don't think anybody can, actually. He has completely gone missing in this. They promised a surge workforce. The surge workforce wasn't there. We heard revelations in Senate estimates today that some facilities are closing down because they don't have the staff to continue to operate. What's going to happen to these older Australians when the home that they are living in is forced to close because there are not enough staff? That is on the minister and the Prime Minister for not doing their job. They knew what would happen when the borders opened. They knew what would happen when we had to 'live with the virus', to quote the Prime Minister. How has this been allowed to happen? Imagine being the family members of these aged-care residents, where they've got outbreaks in facilities. They're frightened for their loved ones and now they're being told, 'We don't have enough staff to care for your parent'—or your loved one—'so we're going to close the facility.' Where are the older Australians in these facilities going to go when the facilities have to close because the government didn't do its job? It's not good enough. Too many people have suffered because the government didn't do its job. It didn't do enough and it didn't do it soon enough. That is the reality.
When it comes to aged care, that sits firmly on the shoulders of the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services. I'll never forget that COVID select committee where he was asked how many older Australians had died, when he rustled through the papers because he didn't know. It's his job to know. But, after what happened with the warnings and what happened in those homes last year, to open the borders to live with the virus and not to have a better plan for aged care is just staggering. It's not just incompetent; it really is bordering on—I don't want to say, Deputy Speaker; I'd probably be deemed unparliamentary. But I cannot fathom how somebody says, 'The number of older Australians who die is not a performance indicator of my job,' how he has got such an attitude to this. These are people's lives. We had the Minister for Health and Aged Care in question time today stand up and say, 'Oh well, you know, some of them were palliative anyway,' and compare the situation to other countries. They knew they could have saved more lives if they had done more soon enough. That is the reality. Instead we had the minister stand up with this number salad, as though somehow this was going to actually satisfy the families. Has he talked to the staff of these facilities? Has he spoken to the families about what's going on? Has he spoken to the people trying to run the facilities? The only reason the system is holding together at all is the diligent staff, who are going above and beyond, running around in these aged-care facilities, trying to take care of older Australians. It's been an absolute disaster.
In my home state of Tasmania, schools went back last week, and already we've got outbreaks in a whole heap of schools. Already we've got parents saying: 'We don't have enough RATs. We need to get some RATs.' It's not going swimmingly. We've got inconsistent advice again coming from governments. We've got a lack of rapid antigen tests in our schools. In Tasmania we actually had our education minister resign last week because she got stuck overseas with COVID. She was on leave instead of trying to make sure that kids and parents were all sorted and the system was all okay for the kids to go back to school. We've had a failure of the state and federal Liberal governments when it comes to the kids going back to school.
But we've also had a complete failure by the federal government and the state Liberal government in Tasmania when it comes to our state's infrastructure. We had a range of questions in estimates on Monday about the Hobart City Deal. It's just extraordinary. We had $25 million promised for a rail corridor and for a study into a rail corridor, and it turns out that the state government have been sitting on a report that says this corridor is not viable but hadn't told anybody! Indeed, only $2 million of the $25 million has actually been spent. There was a big signing for this Hobart City Deal. It was touted. There were the usual big pictures. Hundreds of millions of dollars were, allegedly, coming to Hobart. It was all announcement and no delivery. So far we've had $2 million spent.
We had $300 million set aside for a runway on the Antarctic Territory—it's a long way from the city of Hobart, but apparently it was included—which they had to abandon, of course. The Minister for the Environment has said that it's not going to proceed. We don't know what's happening to the $300 million that was earmarked for the runway down on the Antarctic. I hope it's coming to Greater Hobart, but who knows where that $300 million is or has gone, or what's happening to it. Then, of course, we've got the Bridgewater Bridge, which has been promised more times than I can count. We still don't even have a final design. Nothing's happened. It's been years. Nothing's happened. It's just extraordinary that the governments have gotten away with this. They come down and talk about hundreds of millions of dollars for this great deal—and absolutely zip. We've had a complete failure to deliver at both the state and federal level.
Indeed, the only thing happening in my electorate is the removal of the Hobart Airport roundabout, which is a project at that interchange to allow traffic to go further south-east into the member for Lyons's electorate, past the airport. Of course, that project was actually first announced by Labor. It was an election commitment that we made back in 2013. If Labor hadn't made that commitment, nothing would have happened. The government certainly wasn't going to do anything. It had to make a commitment, but it was for less money. The design is terrible and won't stand the test of time, because the commitment was not enough, unlike Labor's commitment at the time. But this is the only project that has happened in my electorate under nine years of this government—the only one. All the other projects in my electorate happened under the former Labor government where we got a commitment and they were in the budget when Labor left office. Seriously, what has been happening with infrastructure in Tasmania under this government is a complete disgrace, and my constituents have had enough of it. They're sick to death of all of this promise, promise, promise and nothing ever turning up.
Frankly, all these promises and the Prime Minister or the minister flying in and signing all these things, are consistent with what this government does time and time again—all announcement, no delivery. You sort of expect the Prime Minister to come, but we don't know what he's going to dress up as next. So far we've had the racing car driver, we've had the pilot, we've had the hairdresser and we've had the ukulele player. I'm wondering what comes next. Is he going to drive a digger next, with his hard hat on? Where's he going to go next? Seriously, Australians are over it. He's got to stop dressing up and pretending to be somebody else and do the job we're paying him for. We want the Prime Minister to do the job he is being paid for, not to play silly games, not to dress up for announcements, not to go around doing silly stunts. We want him to deliver. We want him to deliver on stuff like infrastructure, which is productivity-changing and creates jobs. We want him to deliver on health care. We want him to make sure that every Australian that needs one can get a rapid antigen test. We need him to make sure that all Australians can access a booster for their COVID vaccination. Seriously, he needs to get on with the things that matter to Australians. He needs to do his job, the job that he is being paid for.
Australians are over it. The Prime Minister knows Australians are over it. We've seen a whole heap of scare tactics over the last couple of weeks in parliament while he tries to dodge and, 'Look over here,' and change direction. The big scare campaigns are coming out. But, seriously, Australians just want him to do his job—the one we're paying him for. If he can't do his job, he should get out of the way and call the election.
Bert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
It's a pleasure to rise and speak on these appropriation bills, and it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the record of delivery across the electorate of Forde over the past nine years, since the coalition first came into government in 2013. I'm pleased to follow the member for Franklin's contribution and I'll be pleased to read out a list of significant achievements and deliverables in the electorate of Forde. I'm pleased to say that we continue—
I don't need a spreadsheet.
Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Order, Member for Franklin!
Bert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I've got a list here, Member for Franklin, because it wouldn't fit on a spreadsheet! We've committed, since we came to government in 2013, to make this a better, safer, stronger country for all, through creating jobs, supporting local community organisations, delivering roads infrastructure, supporting our vulnerable, and enhancing opportunities for small to medium businesses across the country, and, importantly, in my electorate.
As I look back over the past nine years at this coalition government's record of delivery to my electorate of Forde, it's heartening to see the impact of that delivery making it a better community for everybody to live in. If I go through some of those things and the projects that have been delivered or are under construction or are planned, we can see significant changes to the safety of our local roads and we can see significant improvements to people's ability to get to and from work safely. But, in addition to those big infrastructure projects—which I'll touch on a little bit later—importantly, we've left more money in people's pockets.
Across my electorate of Forde, some 74,000 taxpayers have benefited from the tax relief that this government has put in place. We've already seen some 18½ thousand businesses across the electorate of Forde being supported through the expanded instant asset write-off to encourage investment and boost local jobs. I've spoken to many businesses, right across the electorate, who have taken advantage of these provisions to replenish their capital equipment, to improve their productivity and to improve their ability to produce new goods and services, and it's been very, very well received.
One of the important things for everybody in my electorate of Forde is health. We've seen, during the pandemic, the introduction of telehealth and the importance of that for people to be able to still get support and service from their medical practitioners without having to physically go into doctors surgeries. Some 622,000 telehealth consultations have occurred through Medicare in the past year, and these services are now being extended. We've added over 2,800, I think it is now, new medicines to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme since we came to government in 2013, and the community of Forde has benefited to the tune of over 2.3 million prescriptions being subsidised through the PBS.
As I touched on, one of the really big deliverables in my electorate of Forde has been infrastructure. I represent one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia, and one of the things that have held back or impacted development, impacted quality of life, tradies' ability to get to and from the job site, people's ability to get to work safely in our major industrial areas—in Yatala and Loganholme, and now, over in the west of the electorate, in Park Ridge and Meadowbrook—has been the quality of our infrastructure. When I look at what we've delivered across the electorate of Forde, I'm very pleased to say we've made some significant investments.
The M3 Gateway merge, which the member for Bonner here is also well aware of, had a total investment of some $195 million by the Australian and state governments—$115 million from the federal government. That project, from the Gateway merge to Springwood, has now been completed. The next section of the M1, from Springwood to Loganlea Road, is now well under construction. Some of the northbound lanes, from Sports Drive to the Gateway Motorway, have now been opened. Part of that also is the extension of the busway from Eight Mile Plains to Springwood. In addition, I've secured the funding for the remaining part of that upgrade from Daisy Hill to the Logan Mortorway, which will be a $500 million investment by the Commonwealth government, matched by another $500 million from the state government. That project will get underway once the current panel from Springwood to Daisy Hill is complete.
Importantly, south of that area, in the northern Gold Coast, we have four major interchanges which are critical to access both our residential communities and our business communities. I'm pleased to say that exit 54 at Upper Coomera was completed several years ago, through a $10 million investment by the federal government in conjunction with the developers of Coomera town centre, Westfield QIC and the state government. This has made an enormous difference to the communities of Upper Coomera and Coomera. We've recently added to that with a $7½ million investment, bringing it, in conjunction with the state government, to approximately $15 million for a new car park at Coomera train station, because we know how important access to public transport is. The parking facilities at Coomera train station well and truly needed that upgrade, because people just could not find a park unless they got there very, very early in the morning. Many of those people would otherwise drive into Brisbane or other places. Now they will be able to get a parking spot and catch the train, reducing the pressure on the M1.
As we head north from exit 54, we have exit 49 at Pimpama, which will be a $110 million joint investment by the Commonwealth and state governments. Work on that will commence in the second half of this year. We've commenced construction at exit 45, with a $20 million investment to realign the southbound exit off exit 45, which, in the afternoon, will stop traffic banking back onto the M1 in a 110 kilometre per hour zone, which is an enormous safety issue. That will also free up some of the traffic movements around the roundabouts and the current bridge, particularly affecting Tillyroen Road and Peachey Road.
We're also upgrading exit 41, with an $82 million investment between the Commonwealth and state governments, with work now well underway to duplicate that exit. It will be along the lines of the model of exit 54, with a new bridge, increased lane capacity and much longer exits off the freeway. Again, sometimes at exit 41 in the morning, trying to get into the industrial estate, the traffic could be backed up for at least a kilometre on the M1 in a 110 kilometre an hour zone—incredibly dangerous.
In local roads, the Milne Street to Tallagandra Road upgrade again will be fifty-fifty joint funding—a $5 million investment. That's now in the design stage. Hopefully work will commence on that later this year, which will duplicate from Milne Street to Tallagandra Road. That work will start on Beaudesert Beenleigh Road, which is increasingly busy, given the development to the south of Beenleigh in Bahrs Scrub, Windaroo and further afield. We've seen the upgrade of the Jellicoe and Station Road intersection, where people exit off the Logan Motorway to get into Loganlea and to Waterford West. That $1.4 million investment, in conjunction with the Logan City Council, has made an enormous difference to an intersection which had a terrible crash history.
Further to the west, on the Mount Lindesay Highway, we spent $20 million upgrading service roads between Chambers Flat Road and Greenbank Road. Now that that has been completed, we're now working on the section between Stoney Camp Road and Chambers Flat Road, which is a joint $75 million investment. I recently had the opportunity to open the new Norris Creek Bridge, which I'm delighted at the design of, given how high it is, how wide it is and the way they've designed it to allow for wildlife to be able to cross underneath it rather than having to cross over it. Given that's an area where we have koalas and a range of other wildlife, I'm greatly appreciative of the work that Main Roads has done in its design to make it friendly for wildlife to cross the road. That duplication will make an enormous difference.
There are a number of other road projects where we've provided funding to Logan City Council and we're waiting for the council to finalise design to get on and build those roads, such as the duplication on Chambers Flat Road, from Park Ridge Road to Derby Road, and the upgrades of High Road and Easterley Street at Waterford.
Equally, in a growing community you need community facilities, and part of that is the support of our local sporting clubs. Through a number of community grants, we've supported Mustangs Brothers Rugby League Football Club to the tune of $150,000 for new lighting and water infrastructure to upgrade their fields. I'll say that Logan City Council and the state government also jumped in and helped with some additional works there, such that Mustangs Brothers have now got a completely new surface on their field, but that is now well and truly protected by the water infrastructure and the new lighting. It looks fantastic. They've also received a grant from the Commonwealth government, through the Powering Communities Program, for solar panels on their roof.
Ormeau Shearers rugby league club received some $500,000 to build a new clubhouse and dressing shed. The old one was an old steel shed that was well and truly past its use-by date. For the club at Ormeau, in the growing corridor of the Gold Coast, that's been a tremendous investment.
Loganholme Lightning Football Club have had two grants, one for their clubhouse at Cornubia. In conjunction with some state government investment, it has transformed that clubhouse and those dressing rooms, in reflection of the fact that the club is now playing in the National Premier Leagues in Queensland. The other upgrade will be at Chris Green Park in Beenleigh, with a $600,000 investment by the Commonwealth government augmented by a $1.2 million investment by Logan City Council to further build on these facilities. You can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, from what I've outlined in that list—and there's so much more that I could go through—what we've delivered for the community in Forde over the last nine years.
Other exciting and interesting projects as I look across the electorate have been on the environmental front, where we've provided funds to a range of community organisations for restoration of our local riverbanks; protection of rare and endangered species, such as the Ormeau bottle tree; and installation of solar power across various community organisations to help them reduce their power bills, which means that the small amount of funds they get for various things or through fundraising can be directed to their activities on the ground.
Another very interesting project is Australia's first biosolids gasification facility at the Loganholme Wastewater Treatment Plant. This $6.2 million investment to Logan City Council will transform sewage sludge, or biosolids, into renewable energy and an environmentally friendly project called biochar. The project's construction phase has commenced and work is well underway. I believe we'll be opening that facility sometime in April.
Also, Logan City Council has been granted funds, through the Smart Cities and Suburbs program, for locals to prepare their houses and businesses to be more resilient to flooding and equip first responders with crucial information through modelling for disaster management. Equally, we've seen a range of grants to great community organisations, including our rural fire brigades, our Meals on Wheels, Rosies youth mission, Lighthouse Care, Nightlight and many others who do a terrific job across our electorate each and every day.
Importantly, what this shows is that the Morrison government is delivering for my electorate of Forde across a whole range of areas. Despite the protestations from those opposite, I'll continue to work with my community—
Opposition members interjecting—
Well, through the previous contribution, not so much those of you over there—which is unusual.
I'm pleased to say that the Morrison government continues to deliver for the community of Forde in a whole range of areas, and I look forward to the work we'll continue to do into the future.
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
This is terrific. The Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 gives the government another $15.9 billion to spend, which is nice because they've already got a $16 billion slush fund in the budget. They put that in the mid-year update—decisions taken but not yet announced—so they won't tell Australians what's in their $16 billion slush fund but they want another $15.9 billion. This does then invite discussion of the government's economic and budgetary record. Labor's not going to be lectured by this mob, the most wasteful government—the most corrupt, rorting government—since Federation.
The government desperately pretends that the Australian economy is going well, but the reality for Australians is very different. The cost of living is rising rapidly. I spoke to a constituent last week. They get the same basket of groceries delivered every week, their basics. It used to cost $100. It's now $25 dearer a year on. Childcare costs have gone up by 6½ per cent in the last year alone and by 44 per cent since his government was elected. Petrol is skyrocketing. It's gone up by a third—that is, 33 per cent—in the last 12 months alone under this mob. Meanwhile, while the cost of everything is going up, wages in this country are stagnating or going down in real terms. 'In real terms' is economic jargon which means the price of things is going up faster than wages. That means wages in real terms are dropping because your pay buys less and working families in this country are going backwards.
The government hates it when you actually point out these facts. They rely on their spin and their brand propaganda. They go around saying the Liberals are great economic managers. It's simply not true. How are people across Australia supposed to pay for things now that the cost of petrol is going up, the cost of food is going up, the cost of child care is going up, the cost of transport is going up, but wages are stagnating or going backwards in this country? I especially feel for retirees, as we saw reported on in the newspaper this morning, like single pensioners who are living alone.
Have a look at wages. For workers, middle Australians have never been more vulnerable. It's not a COVID thing. The really dishonest thing is that whenever you raise these problems and you put them to the Prime Minister, he says it's COVID. We blame everything on COVID, but it's not the case. Even before COVID, real wages in this country under the Liberals for six years went backwards. From 2013 to 2019 real wages in this country went backwards by 0.7 per cent. That is reflected in OECD data showing our wages fell, and last year they went backwards again by $700 on average per worker. They could blame that on COVID, but put those things together and they mean less money in people's pockets while the cost of everything is going up. The government's own projections in their budget, the mid-year financial update for which we're giving them money now, say that real wages will go backwards again this financial year—they'll go further backwards this year. What that adds up to is eight years of stagnant wages under this government. In fact, it's the lowest average wage growth on record. Since they started collecting economic statistics in this country, the Liberals have presided over the lowest average growth on record.
The worst thing is it is deliberate. The former Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann told Australians, when the issue of low wages was put to him, it's 'a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture'. And you can see this architecture—it was an outbreak of honesty, but he's left now—cuts to penalty rates and opposing wage rises for childcare workers, aged-care workers and public servants at every turn. It's a flawed industrial relations framework so workers cannot bargain fairly for a wage rise in this country under the Libs. And their badly run, lazy migration program is letting in the wrong kinds of low-skilled workers, which holds down wages in certain occupations. The data is clear.
To contrast this with Labor's record in government, under Labor wages grew faster than the cost of living. Australians had more in their pockets and could buy more stuff. They had more discretionary income under a Labor government; people were better off. The McKell Institute's analysis last year showed that if the average wage rise under the Labor government had continued for the last decade under this mob, the average worker would be $254 better off. That means that if we'd had the same wage achievement that we saw under Labor, the average worker would have $13,000 more in their pocket every year than under the Libs.
COVID has also exposed the risk to workers and the Australian economy of casualised and insecure work and of underemployment—two other facts the government doesn't like to talk about. There are 1.5 million Australians still looking for work or looking for more work as they can't get enough hours. The vulnerability of casual and insecure workers—the government has done nothing about this—was revealed as a weakness in our society through COVID. These are millions of workers who do not have sick leave; millions of workers who cannot get a secure job or ever get a home loan. They love to talk about home ownership, but they never talk about those millions of workers that are locked out of the home market, not because their income is not high enough to get a loan but because they cannot get a loan on a casual wage, on a labour hire contract. They're privatising the Public Service: tens of thousands of Public Service jobs have gone; people are existing on casual labour hire contracts. It's wasting taxpayers' money. I see this in my community.
They had a scheme, you know, to fix this. The Prime Minister announced it with great fanfare. He gave it a cute little name, as he does: it was the JobMaker scheme. He was going to create 450,000 jobs. Well, we heard today in Senate estimates what actually happened: they created 7,300 jobs—not 450,000; 7,300. If he was honest, he'd rename it the JobFaker scheme, because that's what it was.
But, really, all this exposes the great big lie—the lie that they say day after day, the lie that the Liberals love to perpetuate: the claim that they are better economic managers. It's just rubbish. It doesn't stack up. If you look at the actual data on wages, productivity, tax, debt or growth, it doesn't stack up.
Now, we've been hearing a lot about tax, of course, in question time. The government loves to talk about tax cuts. Well, they're flailing and desperate, as we also saw in question time today. They stooped to a new low. In the Prime Minister's own words, they put their hand in the chum bucket. He actually called the Leader of the Opposition 'the Manchurian candidate'. He actually said that. I heard it. The Speaker didn't; there was a bit of noise down there. That's what he said. He got up and withdrew, but he knew what he was doing. That was effectively accusing the opposition of treason. That's what it means. It's against the Practice. And it's a disgusting, disgraceful slur. And the irony is: when you talk to the national security professionals, that is exactly what China and our opponents, or adversaries, or competitors—whatever you want to call them—want. That's the kind of behaviour they are trying to incite in our country, and the Prime Minister is so desperate, so naive, he fell into the trap again and again. He's a desperate, little man.
But then we go back to the other lie, that Labor always taxes more. Well, the fact is: the Morrison government is the second-highest-taxing government in the last 40 years in this country. On the average tax-to-GDP ratio—that's the measure—it's the second-highest-taxing government in 40 years. Guess who was the highest? We can have a look: there was Whitlam and Fraser and Hawke and Keating and Howard and Rudd and Gillard, and Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison, that nightmare dynasty. It was John Howard! Twenty-three point five per cent was his average tax-to-GDP ratio; 22.4 per cent was Morrison's. That's what it says. So I seek leave to table this graph, Deputy Speaker, which sets out the facts. It exposes your lie, Government. It exposes the lie that the Liberals are lower-taxing. It's simply not true.
Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
You don't want the facts recorded? No? Alright. Well, it's there for anyone to google. The facts are: every Australian is paying $4,500 more tax under the Morrison government than they were under Labor, and every household is paying $9,600 more than they were under Labor. They're the facts.
We could have a look at debt, though. That's a good one, isn't it? What do the facts say about that? Well, it's a little bit awkward for the government; I'll give you a heads-up. These economic geniuses are racking up a trillion dollars of debt; a trillion dollars, with almost nothing to show for it—no legacy; no real investment in infrastructure, just announced things; no investment in skills; they're just trying to repair the cuts they made to TAFE in their first six years. There's no social housing to show for it, just a whole lot of money to the private sector to push up housing prices, push up building costs and randomly renovate people's bathrooms—that's the truth of it. Tens of billions of dollars they've wasted, unnecessarily. We'll never cop a lecture on fiscal responsibility from this mob ever again. Twenty billion dollars of JobKeeper was rorted—paid to businesses to increase their profits and pay themselves executive bonuses. The former head of the Council of Small Business Organisations described it as close to theft. It was a rip-off. They ripped off taxpayers' money and shovelled it out the door. You could see big business, couldn't you? They'd be backing their trucks up to the Treasury in the dead of night. As the giant ATM funnels out the cash, they'd be shovelling it into the back of the truck, thinking: 'Who's stupid enough to give us this money to increase our profits? Oh, that would be the Morrison government. Free money! Off we drive.' They wasted $20 billion, and the next generation of Australians and the generation after them are going to be asked to repay this Liberal debt.
They wasted economic supports during lockdowns. Billions were paid to individuals and businesses that they would not have to have paid if they had ordered enough vaccines and built quarantine facilities. We're an island continent. They didn't build quarantine facilities; they didn't keep the disease out until people were vaccinated. Then they were last in the developed world on the vaccination rollout—the slowest. If they had even been average, we would have avoided months of these lockdowns. We would have been living with the virus more safely months ago, and they wouldn't have had to pay billions of dollars. But just shove that on the debt for the next generation!
There's the rorts, the waste and the corruption—shovelling taxpayers' money to marginal seats as if it were the Liberal Party's own. In my electorate, the most disadvantaged in Melbourne, we could do with a little bit of help. We didn't get a dollar of election commitments at the last election. I think you, Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, got a lovely regional pool in the electorate of North Sydney—that's famous. The list could go on. There's privatisation, as I said, wasting money, with billions of dollars paid to consultants and their contractor mates. No problem—just load it on the debt!
What's Morrison's response? He says, 'It's a one-in-100-year pandemic; don't blame me.' Here's an inconvenient fact: half of the Liberal debt was before COVID. This mob, the geniuses over there, doubled Australia's debt before COVID. From 2012 to 2019, Australia had the greatest debt growth of any developed nation in the world, out of all 36 OECD countries. I seek leave to table this graph, which shows the truth about the Liberal debt. See this? There are some nice, small red Labor lines, and then—ooh!— six years of more than double the debt, even before COVID. I seek leave to table this to tell you the truth about Liberal debt.
Leave not granted.
Another cover-up! Let's try again. I seek leave to table this graph, which shows that your government, the Liberal Morrison government, grew debt before COVID faster than any developed country in the world. It exposes the lies that you perpetuate day after day about debt.
Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Order! I'll come back—
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Sorry—'the government perpetuates', not you, Deputy Speaker Zimmerman.
Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
You're coming very close to using unparliamentary terms, I have to say. Are you seeking leave to table that document?
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I'm seeking leave to table this document.
Leave not granted.
Another little cover-up! Well, as we said, it is awkward for them, because, before they were elected, they promised surpluses in the first year and every year thereafter. And what have they delivered? They've delivered eight record deficits. If you look at their budget papers, which we're debating, they're projecting 40 years of deficits. That's their record. They stood up before the election and said, There'll be surpluses in the first year and every year thereafter.' What did they do? They delivered deficits. They told untruths to the electorate.
Remember the 'debt truck', Deputy Speaker Zimmerman? You'd remember that, the one Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott were driving around. They had this figure—which was also a lie, frankly—on the side of it of $315 billion of Labor debt. In fact, Labor never had $315 billion of debt. The first year the country got to that was under Tony Abbott. I seek leave, for the record, to table this picture of the Liberal debt truck. If we had to now make a debt truck to represent this government's debt, we'd need every truck in Australia to come as a convoy in a road train right across the country—a debt convoy. Is leave granted?
Trent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I ask that question.
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Sorry, that's you, yes.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Don't get carried away. Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
What a surprise! Before the election, of course, they're pretending that there is no problem, but after the election you can bet your house they'll try making massive spending cuts to the NDIS, to health and to aged care, because the reality is that the only way out of their mess is growth. Yes, you can trim their rorts and waste, but the only way to pay off this multigenerational debt will be to grow the pie, to shrink the debt-to-GDP ratio. So how's that gone? Under the Liberals, economic growth slowed, with average annual GDP growth lower than every decade since the Great Depression in the 1930s. That's their record. They release these optimistic budget forecasts, like we see here, every six months, and they're rubbish. They turn out to be garbage. It's just stuff they make up to put in the budget and kick the problem down the road.
Growth is anaemic under this mob. Last September they were saying: 'We got 0.7 per cent growth. How good is that?' In the UK, where they vaccinated their population properly, they got four per cent. They turned a health crisis into an economic crisis. They do not deserve another decade in office.
James Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I rise in the second reading debate of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022 to talk about some of the excellent investments this government is making in my electorate of Sturt. I'll start with the most significant in dollar terms. In my electorate there are three really critical congestion-busting projects happening because of the Urban Congestion Fund. Three intersections were identified. I remember well back in early 2019 the Commonwealth government coming to the state government, which I was involved in at the time, and asking what intersections in metropolitan Adelaide were most in need of upgrades to help families get home quicker and safer and to help businesses move around their commercial activities more efficiently. The state government department of infrastructure were able to take an evidence based approach, a data-driven approach, to identify the intersections that were most in need of congestion relief. Three of those, happily, are in my electorate of Sturt. They are the Portrush Road-Magill Road intersection, the Fullarton Road-Cross Road intersection and the Fullarton Road-Glen Osmond Road intersection.
There were also many other intersections put forward outside of my electorate of Sturt as part of that process. The 2019 budget was the first time the Commonwealth committed to a range of those projects, and there were 16 across metropolitan Adelaide and three in my electorate of Sturt. That was before the election. As the new candidate for Sturt, I was able to join Premier Steven Marshall in announcing a commitment to those projects. Other federal ministers had been through the campaign as well prosecuting the need for those upgrades. Having been elected in the 2019 election, I have been pretty dedicated ever since to these and other commitments we made at the election. I have been very focused on the delivery of those commitments that we made.
The most important and significant of those is the Magill Road-Portrush Road intersection. That's a $98 million 50-50 funded project between the Marshall government and the Morrison government. It's in the heart of my electorate. Magill Road essentially bisects the seat of Sturt. Portrush Road at times is the boundary and it certainly runs through the middle of the seat at times as well. Portrush Road also happens to be Highway 1. I am lucky—maybe not—to have Highway 1 running through my electorate. It's in many ways the busiest carriageway and that intersection is the busiest intersection in the metropolitan area, with 65,000 vehicle movements a day through that intersection.
Just last weekend I had the pleasure of joining the Premier on site to inspect the essentially finished product. Three years later, just before the federal election we're about to go to in the months ahead, we have delivered on that promise. That $98 million intersection upgrade is now all but completed. There are some minor landscaping works et cetera to occur, but all the major civil engineering is done. The final topcoat of asphalt went on just a few weeks ago. This has made an enormous difference to that intersection. It benefits not only my constituents in Sturt but really the whole of metropolitan Adelaide because it helps with the flow of traffic in one of the busiest intersections. As I said, we're constantly investing in those choke points to allow us to relieve traffic congestion and have people spend less time in cars and more time in their productive working life, with their families or doing what they want be doing with their time. Not many people would say: 'I love sitting in traffic. That's the thing I like to do in my waking hours.' That's an excellent outcome.
The other two intersections are progressing apace as well. The Fullarton Road-Cross Road intersection is a $61 million investment—again 50-50 between the two governments. They've undertaken all the land acquisition. That's at the corner of my electorate. It also abuts the seats of Adelaide and Boothby. It's right on the corner of the three electorates there. That's of course not why it was chosen for upgrade. It's a vital carriageway in both directions. It's been a dangerous intersection. There was an awful tragedy there around 12 months ago, where two people were killed in a vehicle collision. But it carries an enormous number of vehicle movements a day, and during peak hour it does congest quite significantly. It's probably worst for the people who live in the seat of Boothby who use it to come up towards the CBD and, of course, go back out again in the evening time. I'm grateful for the impact this will have for my constituents in Sturt, but I'm also very grateful for the broader impact it will have.
We had some heritage issues there that were initially controversial in how they were proposed to be dealt with. I'm glad that the state government agreed with representations from people such as me; the member for Boothby, Nicolle Flint; local state MPs et cetera to move, safely, a heritage gatehouse from the Waite Arboretum rather than having it demolished. It would have been a lost piece of heritage. Now that is being safely relocated. That's a site that is owned by the University of Adelaide, and I thank them for their participation and goodwill in working with us to see that relocated. It has to move to another location on their site at the Waite campus. They've been very good about that, and I think we've achieved an excellent outcome. So we're going to see that intersection upgraded, and that is imminent. The major civil works will be commenced and completed over the coming months.
The third one I mentioned was the Glen Osmond Road-Fullarton Road intersection. There are two intersections on Fullarton Road that we are working on in this program—the intersection with Cross Road and the intersection with Glen Osmond Road. As you can imagine, if you fix one intersection, you're in danger of just moving the problem to the next intersection up the road. So I'm very pleased that we identified that next intersection along as well, which is again on the boundary of my electorate and the seat of Adelaide. That will ensure that the good work we do at Fullarton Road and Cross Road doesn't simply move the problem further up to the Fullarton Road-Glen Osmond Road intersection. Glen Osmond Road carries a lot of traffic from the Adelaide Hills. Anyone who lives in the Adelaide Hills has to go down Glen Osmond Road to get to the city—or it's certainly the preferred route for people. There has been enormous population growth in the Adelaide Hills. We need to anticipate the increased pressure of traffic along that carriageway, which we're doing by investing in that intersection as well as upgrading sections of Fullarton Road.
In each case we are expanding the capacity of these intersections in both directions. We're doing sensible things. They're all, funnily enough, quite similar. They were all designed and built many, many decades ago—probably way back when we still had a tram network in Adelaide—and haven't really been improved in any way since. Now, in the year 2022, we're seeing that all three intersections need substantial upgrades, which is why in all cases there is land acquisition, adding of lanes, adding of turn lanes, lengthening of slip lanes—all the things you can imagine that will increase the capacity to carry vehicle movements through those intersections. We're also making sure we're properly provisioning for bike lanes and pedestrians and making sure the safety outcomes are there. I'm very proud of the progress we've made on all three of those infrastructure investments. Together that's nearly $200 million worth of investment in congestion-busting in my electorate.
I'm also very pleased to have campaigned for, had commitments on and now be delivering some significant recreational upgrades in the electorate. Just over a month ago I was able to be at the ribbon-cutting at the Kensington Gardens Reserve. It was initially a $6 million project, which was $3 million from the Commonwealth and $3 million from the Burnside local council. That initial project was expanded in scope when an opportunity came about to apply for some stimulus funding through the state government, as part of their COVID response economic stimulus package, so it's now ended up being a project worth a little over $7 million. It's a fantastic outcome for the communities and neighbours of the Kensington Gardens Reserve. It's an environmental project that has seen the Stonyfell Creek and the awful duck pond that was there turned into a beautiful environmental wetland, which provides some natural cleaning of the water streams and the intermittent creeks that flow through that site. There are Indigenous plantings, and the wetland has the effect of cleaning pollutants out of the water before it continues on to become a part of the Torrens catchment and end up in the Torrens River.
We've also resurfaced and realigned the tennis courts at the East Torrens Kensington Gardens Tennis Club, which has brought them up to Tennis Australia standard. That has been a great outcome for the club, as have some upgrades to the amenity of their clubhouse. We've also got a parkrun-compliant track there now, which is already being used. There's a nature play space for the kids and an important Kaurna Indigenous interpretive experience for educational purposes as well. It's something that we consulted on very constructively with the local Kaurna elders in the region. The Kensington Gardens Reserve has always been a very significant place for the Kaurna people, and it has become a very enhanced cultural site for them through the investment that we've made there as well. I was honoured to be at the ribbon-cutting for that project, which is another great example of the three levels of government in my electorate working together. It happens to be in the Premier's electorate as well, so he was there, as well as Vicki Chapman, the member for Bragg, and of course Mayor Anne Monceaux and other local councillors from Burnside council.
We've also invested $2 million in the Magill Village Precinct upgrade. This is a bit different again. It's another very exciting rejuvenation project that was brought to me when I was a candidate by two local government areas—the Campbelltown council and the Burnside council—for an area on Magill Road that forms their boundary. They had a proposal to bury the overhead cables along a segment of the Magill Road streetscape, a segment where there are a lot of cafes and a little village atmosphere, and to rejuvenate that into a proper precinct that would be a great retail hub and also a great place for families to enjoy the local amenity. The project has involved undergrounding powerlines; repaving the street; doing a lot of plantings, putting in a new avenue canopy as well as ground covers; putting in place street furniture, like park benches et cetera; and traffic softening so that it's a safe place for families—they can leave the house on a Sunday morning, walk down with the kids, get a cup of coffee or some brunch and just enjoy the beautiful Magill Village, as we've called it. I'm very proud that we've invested in that, together with the other funding partners—again, state and local government. It's a $15 million project, and it's becoming a great icon example of ways we can work together on these sorts of projects throughout Adelaide but particularly in my electorate. Already there are some other ideas that have been brought to me from councils in the area, with similar projects to achieve the same sort of outcome.
Finally, in the time that I have left—we've also been investing in some really important environmental projects. One in particular I want to highlight, which is just finishing construction now, is the Second Creek gross pollutant trap. It is a reality of the urbanisation of the Torrens River drainage basin. Almost the entirety of my electorate is in the Torrens basin. There is a risk of a lot more solid rubbish being washed into the creeks that feed into the River Torrens. They're not complicated to remembers, these creeks: there's First Creek, Second Creek, Third Creek, Fourth Creek and Fifth Creek. I'm such a local member, I remember them all so easily! Second Creek is the one with this gross pollutant trap that we've invested in, together with the local government and the local Landcare board—Green Adelaide it's now called, as part of Landscape SA. We're making sure that we're keeping the Torrens clean and that we're capturing any gross pollutants, whether that's rubbish or just heavier foliage from deciduous trees—that are not native that have been planted through the streets of my electorate—that can build up and create algal blooms et cetera in the river.
These are the sorts of local projects I'm really proud to be associated with and really proud to be delivering for the people of my electorate. There's been much done over the last three years, but there's just as much to do in the years ahead. I look forward to making similar commitments to my electorate in the lead-up to the campaign. I hope to have the honour of being re-elected by the people of Sturt and continuing to deliver for them into the future.
Andrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Australia's sports stars are nothing short of extraordinary. Last year we saw Emma McKeon set an Olympic record for the number of medals won by a female Olympian at a single Olympic Games. With seven medals, she equalled a record which hadn't been matched since the 1950s. We've just seen Jakara Anthony take out the gold in the women's moguls at the Winter Olympics. There are so many other extraordinary athletes out there going faster, higher, stronger than anyone who preceded them. When I see that great success on the sporting field, I wish that we could see Australia's economy performing just as well. But unfortunately, under the Liberals, the Australian economy is struggling. If it was an engine, it would be sputtering and blowing smoke.
Labour productivity, which is how much we're able to squeeze out of every unit of input, grew at an average pace of about two per cent right through from the 1970s to the early 2010s. But, in the period since the Liberals have been in office, labour productivity has grown at a quarter of that rate, at just 0.5 per cent per year. The decade ending in 2010 saw the slowest rate of growth of income per person of any decade in the postwar era. Even if we exclude the COVID pandemic, this was the worst period of income growth in the postwar era.
The fact is that the government just aren't stepping up to the task of ensuring that we have a more productive, dynamic and entrepreneurial economy. Their notion of productivity is that it's all about cutting—cut your employee protections, cut your wages, cut your environmental regulations, cut the social safety net—whereas, for Labor, productivity is about investing. We want to invest in institutions, in individuals and in infrastructure. We want a national broadband network that doesn't involve copper being run from a box in the street but takes fibre to the premises.
We want an education system that doesn't see the test scores of Australian teenagers dropping year after year on the OECD's PISA test but actually sees us rising to the top of the international league tables and outperforming previous generations. In Labor we're concerned about the collapse of apprentice and trainee numbers that we've seen under the coalition. We're worried by the capping of the number of students who can go to university, the effective reintroduction of a 'command and control on the Molonglo' system, instead of what you would have thought the Liberals would be in favour of—a more market-based system in which universities can expand places when there's student demand. All of that would mean we got a more skilled workforce and an increase in productivity.
We need to do more, too, to encourage entrepreneurs to build startup firms. The startup rate has declined since the start of the millennium. Part of that is because we're not encouraging startup talent in unexpected places. We're not going out there and encouraging those Elizabeth Blackburns and Peter Dohertys who are born on the wrong side of the tracks to link up with mentors and with the capital that they need to start new firms. We're not doing for entrepreneurs what we do so successfully for young people with sporting talent. We need an Australian economy that is as good as its sports stars.
Australians are feeling the pinch. Too many Australians are telling me things like the woman who came up to one of my street stalls said: 'There's always more month than money.' What she meant by that is what so many Australians feel—that prices are going up faster than pay packets and the assistance that people receive.
Since December 2019, the price of beef is up 17 per cent, the price of furniture is up 11 per cent, car prices are up 10 per cent and childcare costs are up nine per cent. It has taken the Morrison government for Australians to start seeing fuel prices topping $2 a litre. Yet, when you look at wages in the latest budget brought down by the Treasurer, real wages are forecast to fall. That just continues a period which has been utterly lousy for real wages.
Since the current Prime Minister took the job in 2018, average total earnings in real terms have gone up just 2.9 per cent. That's an average of one per cent per year. Yet, over the same period, the combined wealth of Australia's billionaires more than doubled, from $115 billion to $255 billion. That's the world under the Morrison government: battlers seeing wages going up in real terms by just one per cent a year; billionaires seeing their wealth double. Is there anyone you know who has seen a doubling of their wealth since Scott Morrison started the job of Prime Minister? If so, the chances are they're a billionaire, because it's billionaires that have done well, while battlers have struggled.
Indeed, some of those billionaires received help under the Morrison government's JobKeeper program. Nick Politis received dividends from a firm that benefited from JobKeeper and has seen his wealth rise from $1.3 billion to $2 billion during the pandemic. We've seen Brett Blundy's wealth increase from $1.7 billion in 2018 to $2.65 billion in 2021. James Packer, whose firm Crown received JobKeeper, saw his wealth rise from $5.25 billion in 2018 to $5.7 billion. Len Ainsworth saw his wealth increase from $4 billion in 2018 to $5 billion in 2021. Recipients of JobKeeper include the Australian Club, a men's only club in Sydney that voted two to one to continue excluding women members, and yet, while increasing its surplus, it got $2 million of JobKeeper from the Australian taxpayer.
Car dealer AP Eagers have seen their profits and their revenue boom and yet took home more than $130 million in JobKeeper—luxury car dealers sending Aston Martins out the door like they're making a Bond movie and yet seeing cash showered down upon them from the Morrison government. We've seen firms such as Accent Group paying executive bonuses out of JobKeeper money. Indeed, Solomon Lew's own firm Premier Investments paid executive bonuses while receiving JobKeeper. They did so in direct contravention of advice from the Australian Taxation Office and the view of the head of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott. Despite that, we haven't heard boo from the Treasurer when it comes to paying executive bonuses out of JobKeeper.
Labor supported the JobKeeper scheme. We believed that it was important to save jobs. But you don't save jobs by giving money to firms with rising revenues. You didn't save jobs by giving money to the King's School, to Wesley College and to Brisbane Grammar while their revenues were rising.
I want to talk, too, about the way in which people with disabilities have suffered during the pandemic. Labor introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme to deliver certainty and security to Australians living with disabilities and to their families. Yet under this government, rather than providing certainty, the NDIS has seen plans arbitrarily and without clear cause changed.
Last December my constituents Belinda and Hugh Clifford contacted me about their seven-year-old daughter, Ashley, an NDIS participant diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. Ashley's condition causes a range of disabilities that prevent her from functioning independently, including autism and ADHD. Without help and supervision, she can't dress herself, use the bathroom, play or use fine motor skills. In 2021, Ashley's NDIS plan expired and, with no warning to the family, a revised plan was put in place, which cut the majority of her funding. In-class therapists who were assisting Ashley and her teachers at school were removed. Physiotherapy sessions that were helping her with toileting were cancelled. The family had been counting on this support. The Cliffords found themselves having to pay the costs out of pocket. The plan's accompanying report included incorrect information on Ashley's disabilities, diagnoses and educational history.
A few weeks later, Ashley's mum, Belinda, tried to rectify these errors by providing medical records confirming that Ashley's diagnoses had been incorrectly recorded. However, when a third plan for Ashley was put in place, much of that incorrect information remained, and her annual funding was slashed once again, this time by an additional 41 per cent. The Cliffords now receive less NDIS support than ever. To quote Belinda, 'Not only were the therapists supporting Ashley, but they were also putting strategies in place to support the teachers. These supports have been removed, and it is hindering her development, having negative long-term effects for her independent decision-making and capability. Both my husband and I are exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. We are pouring from an empty bucket.'
We know that the Clifford family isn't alone. NDIS participants are facing arbitrary plan cuts across Australia. The Morrison government encourages them to bring their concern to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but we know it is costly and that the tribunal is backlogged. Those families need support today. Families relying on the NDIS deserve more than uncertainty, instability and inconsistency.
I have been contacted, too, by others who are concerned about the way in which the National Disability Insurance Scheme is being managed. One provider contacted me and just said to have a look at this picture. They had sent an email requiring an update on a prosthetic payment to the National Disability Insurance Agency in April 2021. They then sent me the next email, which showed a reply being received in November 2021. That's what some of these agencies working with vulnerable people are facing—sending emails in April and receiving a response almost seven months later, in November. It's just not good enough.
Today, the member for Maribyrnong, the shadow minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and shadow minister for government services, held a disability workers roundtable, drawing together representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, People with Disability, Advocacy for Inclusion, disability workers and support agencies. That roundtable heard that, for people with disabilities, COVID has become an ongoing scary nightmare. They are facing challenges in getting rapid antigen tests, they are facing challenges in getting the booster shot and they are facing challenges in getting appropriate protective equipment.
People with disability, as the member for Maribyrnong pointed out, have effectively been in lockdown since March 2020. And it hasn't stopped. To the extent that there ever was a queue, those with disabilities should be at the front of it. They are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They need better support. That's to do with how we treat people with disabilities, such as the two cases that I have talked about. But it is also about how we treat disability service providers and the people who work there. We have to ensure that working with people with disabilities is a worthwhile career. My uncle Brian Stebbins spent a career working as a disability support worker. I admire him for the work that he did and for the gallant way in which he respectfully worked with those with disabilities. But when we're underpaying disability support workers, we encourage people in that industry to think of it as a 'just for now' job rather than as a career. We need to ensure that those working with people with disabilities are properly supported so that their work can be an ongoing career through which they can pay a mortgage and raise a family.
Darren Chester (Gippsland, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I thank the member for Fenner and I congratulate him on his work with the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and the Parliamentary Friends of Running.
Daniel Mulino (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
This government spends so much of its time in this building and in the broader community patting itself on the back in relation to its economic management. If boasting by the government were counted in the national accounts, this economy would have soared to well beyond pre-COVID levels. But unfortunately, when you scratch beneath the surface of this government's claims, you realise that when it comes to what's actually going on in communities around this country, what's actually going on in households and around kitchen tables, the real underlying story is nowhere near as good. This government is very good at cherry-picking statistics. We're used to the line 'lies, damned lies, and statistics', so it's important when we talk about this government's economic management that we focus on statistics that mean something to people.
Let's look at GDP growth, the overarching measure of the economy. If we look at total GDP growth over the course of this government, Australia doesn't rank too badly. We might get a bronze medal, but that's only because this country has experienced such high population growth over the last decade. When you extract population growth and look at per capita GDP growth, we don't even get a participation certificate but drop way down the rankings. That's the measure that is important. Per capita measures are important because they indicate what's happening to people's standard of living. Why is it that GDP growth per capita has been so weak over the term of this government? Productivity growth is one of the key measures, and productivity growth has stalled or during parts of the last decade gone backwards. I'll drill into that in more detail later.
What does this mean? It means our living standards have stalled. We are experiencing one of the worst periods of living standard change since the Great Depression. Perhaps the best single measure of this for households, the most meaningful statistic, is wages. I want to spend a bit of time on what's going on in the labour market because this government goes on and on about what's occurring in the economy in terms of total jobs created. But they don't talk about the wages those jobs are providing to households and the quality of those jobs in terms of how secure people are in their workplace. What's happening to real wages in our economy? The period between 2013 and 2020 saw the worst real wages outcomes since the Great Depression. Real wages in the lead-up to COVID were lower than real wages in 2013. For a country that is rightly accustomed to households experiencing growing living standards over time, this is an absolutely appalling outcome. It represents a decade of economic mismanagement.
I want to talk about the RBA's take on what we're going to see over the coming couple of years, and this reflects the abysmal projections in the government's budget papers. In its statement of monetary policy on 2 February the RBA said that wages growth has picked up, but it has only just returned to the rates prevailing prior to the pandemic. This means that what we're seeing is wages growth returning to the wages growth our country was experiencing in the worst decade since the Great Depression. I might stress that the RBA is talking about average wages growth. What that means is that many in our community are experiencing even worse outcomes than that. I don't want to get into basic statistics, but if the average rate of wages growth between 2013 and 2019 was negative then many in the community are experiencing wages growth that's worse than mildly negative, so no wonder there's so much frustration building in the community. The RBA statement to the Standing Committee on Economics review on 11 February reinforced this by stressing that they see that the vast bulk of Australians will continue to experience wages growth with a two in front of it for the next year or more. The government's forecasts in their budget and the RBA's forecasts stress that we have a weak labour market when it comes to real wages growth and there's no end in sight for people—no wonder people are frustrated.
It's not just that those in work are experiencing low real wages growth—in fact, many are actually experiencing negative real wages growth—what about underemployment? Underemployment, we know, has become a much more structurally important part of the labour force since the 1970s and 1980s. Back in the 1980s, full-time work was much more of a prominent part of the labour market, a much more common form of employment, so underemployment was nowhere near as much of an issue. Today, we know that underemployment is a critically important part of the labour market to evaluate if we're looking at the labour market's overall performance. To be sure, unemployment is still a key statistic, but we can't look at that alone; we have to look at the number of people in part-time work who want more hours.
While underemployment has fallen recently, it is also true to say that it remains stubbornly high. It remains a real problem. Not only is it a real problem in aggregate terms but we know from analysis undertaken recently that it remains highly problematic in a number of regional communities around Australia in particular. We know that labour underutilisation is particularly bad in a number of regional communities—for example, in Queensland and WA and in the Hunter. We know that unemployment plus underemployment in those communities is over 15 per cent. This is a huge structural problem which this government has no answers to.
Not only that, but a number of macroeconomic forecasters—including Treasury, in estimates this week—have indicated that there is probably slackness in the labour market on top of these structural underemployment figures. We heard that the number of people entering the labour market seeking jobs was greater than expected by macroeconomic forecasters, putting greater downward pressure on wages. In the face of this sustained downward pressure on wages, after a decade of weak performance, this government has no plan.
So we see real wages growth at historically low levels. We see underemployment, reflecting the fact that there are many, many individuals and households who can't make ends meet with the hours that they're getting. But there's an additional element to the labour market which is critically important. Quite apart from the amount of money many people are getting, they're facing insecure work. They're facing conditions in the workplace which are problematic above and beyond the amount of money they're getting. Even when a household might be getting as many hours as they seek in aggregate, those hours might be very erratic across weeks. Even when a household might be getting the income, or close to the income, they feel they need to sustain their standard of living, they may have issues securing a mortgage. There are real and growing problems when it comes to insecure work in our economy, which this government has no answers to.
The labour market tells us a lot about our standard of living. It tells us that real wages have stalled or are declining for many people. It tells us, through the underemployment statistics, that many, many people want more work, which is a reflection of the fact that the work they're getting is not giving them the standard of living they require or aspire to. Also, it tells us there are many people who have issues that transcend the dollars they're receiving in their pocket. They have insecure work, which means that their work patterns do not give them or their families the security they need. That has huge implications for them saving over the long term for their retirement, huge implications for how they deal with economic shocks, and huge implications for them, for example, entering the housing market—and all of this in an economy where inflation is now rearing its ugly head.
All of this is occurring in our labour market, where we now see growing inflation in products that are the biggest part of the household budget for people on the lowest incomes—people on benefits or age pensioners. We see inflation rising across the board, but we see it rising the most in the areas of fuel, transport, clothing, footwear and furnishings. When we look at which groups in our society are most adversely affected by rising inflation, they're all the people we would expect: people on low incomes, people on benefits, age pensioners. This government has no agenda for raising our quality of life, for raising productivity, for raising our standard of living and for raising GDP per capita. That's why many people are, rightfully, particularly worried about inflation rearing its head in this strategy- and policy-free environment.
We have what the government was calling a couple of years ago a snapback. At that time we criticised them for trying to snap back to an economy that was so weak at that time and had underperformed for so many years in the lead-up to COVID. So we have a snapback. That's exactly what we're seeing. We're seeing the economy snap back to the real wages growth that we were experiencing pre-COVID. We're seeing something as lacking in ambition as a snapback after $1 trillion in debt has been accumulated, after an unprecedented period of expansionary monetary policy and after a number of our exports have gone through periods of elevated prices. The government had an opportunity to recalibrate, to build in microeconomic reform and to restructure the economy, and that opportunity was not taken advantage of. This is exactly what we're seeing reflected in the per capita economic measures.
This is a segue to productivity growth. Productivity growth is one of the key, if not the key, medium- and long-term determinants of rising per capita standards of living. We are coming off one of the worst decades of productivity growth in our nation's history. We're coming off the worst decade of productivity growth in more than half a century. Where is this government's plan to boost productivity growth?
Labor has laid out a plan that touches on productivity growth along so many dimensions. We have had a childcare policy for a couple of years now that is going to be so critical to boosting labour participation by so many of our skilled and experienced women. Of course, it's also critically important as a matter of fairness but, for the purposes of looking at it in this context, it's also a really important microeconomic reform. We have our investment in human capital, our investment in TAFEs and our investment in apprenticeships. This so critical to dealing with some of the labour shortages and supply chain issues that our country is experiencing.
We need to spend our investment in infrastructure so much more efficiently. One example is rewiring the nation. That is going to do so much to help put downward pressure on energy prices over the next 10 to 20 years. Of course, then there is a suite of policies in the realm of government procurement. They are going to be so critical to getting better value for money for one of the single biggest components of spending in our economy.
I want to segue from that examination of outcomes in the labour market to industrial relations because I think industrial relations is both a productivity issue and a fairness issue. It is also an issue that has to be addressed if we're going to get better real wage outcomes for many people in our economy. It's linked to that issue of insecure work that I touched on. We go to this election with a really comprehensive plan when it comes to industrial relations. It touches on some of the real challenges in this economy.
Insecure work is going to be dealt with along a number of dimensions. For example, the Fair Work Act is going to have its objectives changed and the Fair Work Commission is going to have powers added so it can deal with this very challenging issue. There is going to be equal pay for equal substantive roles. That is a long-overdue change in a number of important sectors of our economy. There is going to be an objective test for what is casual work. Again, this is something that should have been dealt with in this term, but this government bodgied it. There are going to be improved processes for government procurement. There's going to be a limit on no-fixed-term contracts. So there is a whole suite of policies that are going to do so much to deal with that issue of insecure work and the damage that it is doing to the quality of life of so many people.
Again, I return to some of those key determinants for people's quality of life. We need reforms and economic management from government that can start to put some upward pressure on people's real wages and create an economic environment where we start to deal with underemployment so that we deal with that slackness in the labour market. And we need to start to deal with insecure work. Of course, we need to retain some flexibility in the workforce. Flexibility suits many people, but it is not something that is benefiting all too many people in the labour force. Flexibility in too many contexts is something that is being imposed upon them and they bear too much risk without appropriate compensation.
We talk about the economy so much in this building, and that's appropriate. But there are far too many statistics at times, without drilling down into what are the statistics that actually mean something to people. There's far too much cherrypicking through the national accounts and through the daily ABS releases. But when it comes to things that actually matter for people's quality of life—their real wages, their security in work and whether they're getting enough hours—it's clear that this last decade has been a lost decade. We can only fix these issues if we have a comprehensive plan to do with productivity and to do with people's dignity in the workplace.
Pat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I'm always pleased to make a contribution on appropriations bills. I always start by reminding the House that, unlike the Liberal Party, the Labor Party is not a party of constitutional vandals, and we will support supply. As this could well be my last contribution before the election, I'd like to take some time to reflect on the last three years of this parliamentary term and highlight some of the issues that are affecting my constituents' lives. I'd like to highlight what's important to them and recognise the immense privilege I have in representing my local community.
The number one issue in my community, like in most communities in this country, is health—adequate and universal healthcare. Medicare matters to the people I represent in this place. Shortland is the sixth-oldest electorate in the country and has an average household income below both the state and national average. Access to Medicare is a necessity, not a luxury, for my constituents, and primary health care is fundamentally important in taking the pressure off our already overstretched public hospital system, particularly our emergency departments.
A brilliant initiative developed in the Hunter region is the GP Access After Hours service. This provides out-of-hours consultations with a GP for people needing medical advice, and it takes huge pressure off our emergency departments. It sees 70,000 patients a year, and, importantly, there's a triage service at the start of the process, where families will talk to a registered nurse on the phone. This process helps 25,000 people who then do not have to see a GP. The other 45,000 people do see a GP, instead of clogging up an emergency department. This service is much loved and much used by Hunter locals. The Liberals and Nationals, in their wisdom—at the height of the omicron wave, just before Christmas—cut funding to this essential service. This has meant that the service has had to close completely at the Calvary Mater Newcastle hospital, in Waratah, and that services have been halved on weekends at public hospitals and at the Belmont and Toronto hospitals in Lake Macquarie. My community is justly outraged by these cuts. They know what a quality and efficient service GP Access is and how important it is—now more than ever, in the pandemic—to take pressure off public hospitals. I'm so proud that the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, visited the region over the summer break and committed a future Labor government to fully restoring funding to GP Access.
One of the other very common complaints from constituents is bad or non-existent mobile phone coverage in their homes and places of work. I represent an area where whole suburbs are mobile phone black spots, and yet the Morrison-Joyce government refuses to provide funding for them through the Mobile Black Spot Program, a program that is only subscribed through half its funds. The other half of the funds gets returned to Treasury each year. Yet my electorate, which is a regional electorate, is deemed not to be eligible for this funding. It is insulting. Two of the most severely impacted suburbs are Mount Hutton and Dudley. Although the telecommunications companies have invested in new towers in these suburbs, this has not solved the issue for many of my constituents. I'm talking about people who, for the past two years, have had to study and work from home and have not had the ability to do so. I've had an elderly constituent with Parkinson's disease having to do telehealth appointments in his front yard, on the main road, in the rain because there is no mobile phone reception inside his house. There's also a doctor who misses calls when he's on call and is needed for emergency work, and many people are unable to use QR codes in the suburban shops. The Morrison-Joyce government has ignored Shortland and the issue of mobile phone reception, and it is disgraceful that they continue to refuse to provide funding through the Mobile Black Spot Program.
I also want to take this opportunity to recognise and pay tribute to some of the extraordinary constituents I've encountered over the past three years, who I have the privilege to represent in this place. Because of the last two years of the pandemic, I'm sure I'm not alone in having encountered constituents who have adapted to very difficult situations and thrived in the changed world we live in. I have the greatest admiration for Greg Gates and his great workforce at Sirron Holdings Group at Caves Beach. Before COVID, Sirron was a successful dishwasher manufacturer. Because of the economic downturn, they pivoted to manufacturing hand sanitiser and now have an extensive range of disinfectants, cleaners, hand and surface sanitisers and soaps and are just going from strength to strength. This is a real Australian manufacturing success story, and I'm so proud to represent Greg and his Sirron team in the parliament.
CrocQ Lucero is a talented musician. Because of the lockdown, this work basically dried up, so he focused on his other passion, Filipino cuisine. CrocQ is quite the entrepreneur and successfully pivoted to expanding his Filipino cuisine company, Mini Pinoy Grill. Mini Pinoy specialises in spicy sauces. Having cooked and barbecued with these sauces, I can attest that they are truly quality products—and not for the faint-hearted! CrocQ, you are an example of someone facing a difficult life and work situation who was able to embrace the challenges posed by the pandemic and successfully grow a business. I wish you and Mini Pinoy Grill every continued success.
COVID hasn't stopped internationally acclaimed filmmaker Jye Currie going from strength to strength with his films over the past few years. Jye's film Victim won 11 international awards last year. His new movie, Beat, filmed in Newcastle, premiered in January and explores themes of homelessness and fame. I have every confidence Jye will enjoy as much success this year as he did in 2021.
I want to mention a few of my constituents who have excelled in both their professional and private lives and have achieved success and acclaim both nationally and internationally: Paralympian Rheed McCracken, who won silver in Tokyo last year; Emily van Egmond, who played with the Matildas in Tokyo; Whitebridge's Geraldine Viswanathan, who has achieved much success in Hollywood and recently featured in a Super Bowl ad with Jim Carrey; Red Bull cliff diving world champion Rhiannan Iffland, who continues to thrive in this competition; and Hayden Gavin, who was recognised for not only playing 150 rugby games for the mighty Southern Beaches but also being a finalist in the prestigious Australia's Most Ordinary Rig competition!
Finally I want to thank my constituents who have been recognised in the recent Australia Day Honours List: Pamela Comerford, Elizabeth and John Dickeson, Denis Gordon, Lauretta Morton, Brian Rudder, John Thomas and Derek Brindle. Thank you for all your service to our community. I'm very proud of the people I represent, and I look forward to the coming months, when I will seek the support of my constituents to continue to be their voice in Canberra. I look forward to speaking and meeting with them in the coming weeks, as I have done over the past nine years. I will be campaigning on Labor's plan for a better life for working families, with cheaper child care, strengthening of Medicare, affordable housing, secure work and a future made in Australia, which is so important for the Hunter region, which has a proud industrial and manufacturing heritage and has much to gain from Labor's plan.
In the time remaining to me, I want to reflect on a separate issue, which causes great sadness and, quite frankly, anger to me. It is the outrageous politicisation of national security by the Prime Minister and his ministers. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is effectively doing Beijing's bidding in his attempt to politicise national security and exploit issues for petty political advantage. This is truly desperate fearmongering by a Prime Minister deeply unpopular not only in the community but in his own party room. It runs in stark contrast to the expert advice we have heard from estimates only in the last couple of days. A senior DFAT official today said that Beijing seeks to exploit social and other divisions in countries to pursue its interests. That is why I say, with no fear of contradiction, that Prime Minister Morrison is doing Beijing's bidding by trying to portray that there is some division between the Liberal government and the Labor Party on the issue of national security. There is no distinction on attitudes to increasing Chinese aggression in our region. There is no division. There is no distinction. There is no difference. But Mr Morrison attempts to portray one, for petty political advantage, and he plays right into the hands of the aggressive policies of Beijing.
Similarly, we have seen accusations about candidates that are completely contradicted by testimony by the ASIO chief, who made it very clear that, first, the attempts at foreign influence had failed. He had absolute confidence in every single candidate of that political party some people have speculated on. More importantly, he made it very clear that these attempts at foreign interference are not restricted to one side of politics. This is a challenge every political party has to deal with. ASIO chief Mike Burgess made it very clear that it was not helpful—in fact, it was very counterproductive—to speculate about this in public.
But this is not the first time that this government and this political party, the Liberal Party, has attempted to politicise national security. This is a political party that, when it gets into trouble, goes back to this well time and time again. They have got form for doing this, reaching back to their predecessors in the United Australia Party. There great political hero, Robert Gordon Menzies, for example, was an utter hypocrite. He was a man who was very supportive of Australian intervention in World War I but yet refused to serve in the Army. He was a man who, 10 days after Hitler invaded Poland, advocated doing a peace deal with Germany, making very clear in a letter to Stanley Bruce, our high commissioner, that the troubles in Poland were not worth a hill of beans. That's why I very clearly say that Menzies was an appeaser; he sought to appease the Third Reich. The National Party—the Country Party at that time—was quite right to turf him out of their coalition. Artie Fadden, the then Leader of the National Party, did the right thing by the nation by saying he could not serve under Menzies, an appeaser of the Third Reich. That's not the only time. Let's not forget Vietnam, when, again, Menzies and the Liberal Party brought Australia into a war on a lie, a war where 500 Australians died, tragically, or the Gulf War, another lie, where John Howard brought us into war.
The great tragedy is that there is room for debate of our national security and the defence of the nation where we can talk about how the government and the Australian Labor Party have differences, and that's in procurement performance, in making sure the Australian Defence Force have the weapons and the equipment they need when they need it. This is where this government is so egregiously falling down. Twenty-five major projects are running, cumulatively, 68 years late. Let me repeat that: 25 major defence procurements that are vital to the ADF are running 68 years late under this government.
An honourable member interjecting—
Pat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
There is a rotating litany of defence ministers that come and go. Goldfish have a longer life expectancy than defence ministers in this government. They are spending $7 billion on new Black Hawk helicopters after spending $3½ billion on the MRH-90 failed Taipans, a helicopter where the door was not wide enough for troops to exit the helicopter while firing the helicopter machine gun. We had the $1.5 billion Spartan battlefield airlift aircraft that couldn't fly into battlefields—a minor problem, spending $1½ billion of taxpayers' money on an aircraft that couldn't perform its main purpose of flying into battlefields. We had the $3 billion battlefield management system that failed cybersecurity tests. We had $4 billion wasted on the Attack class submarines, on the contract with the French, which this government has now junked. We only learned yesterday that the Joint Strike Fighter, the $16 billion spear's edge of ADF, the frontline air defence fighter for the ADF, is flying thousands fewer hours each year than planned and budgeted for.
Probably the most appalling example is the $30 billion Hunter class frigates that have now blown out to $45 billion. They have gone from $30 billion to $45 billion, and not one of them has hit the water yet. They are running four years late; they are 2,000 tonnes overweight; they will be slower than the rest of the fleet; they will have a shorter range than the rest of the fleet; and they will be very noisy, which is a problem for a frigate that's primarily designed to hunt submarines. Noise is an issue if you are trying to hunt submarines, unsurprisingly. As concerning as that is the fact that, because it's overweight, because they have stuffed up the design, the frigate captains will have to choose between using their radar and going at full speed. In a high-threat environment, where you're facing potentially incoming missiles, being able to use your radar and go at full speed tend to go hand in hand.
So this government is failing the defence of the nation because it is failing on defence procurement. It's failing on dealing with the issue of an aggressive China. They sold the Port of Darwin, and they are now trying to politicise it, at two minutes to midnight, in a vain attempt to get re-elected.
The great tragedy is: there are many decent people in the Liberals and the National Party. There are really decent people who are united in making Australia a better place and making sure that we defend Australia and our national interest. But they are being led by people who are unworthy. They are being led by people who will stoop to anything to wring out petty political advantage. They will use the proceeds of crime money for petty political advantage. They will politicise the ADF. They will fearmonger and scaremonger to try and wring out every little political advantage as we approach an election. That's a great pity because it not only does them a disservice, it does the nation a disservice. It undermines confidence in the parliamentary system. It undermines confidence in a united Australia that will confront the many global challenges that are now arising.
So I end this speech with profound disappointment about the actions of the government. I can only say: let's bring on a Labor government. We'll fix this country. (Time expired)
Darren Chester (Gippsland, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I thank the member for Shortland for his contribution and the colourful history lesson.
Brian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Today I rise to address Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022. Labor will support these bills. We've got a long history in the Labor Party—we don't block supply. But let me be clear: we will not be lectured on fiscal responsibility by the most wasteful government since Federation. We will not be lectured on money matters by a government which doubled the debt before the pandemic. And we won't be lectured by a government set to deliver a trillion dollars in debt with nothing to show for it.
The track record of this government, the track record of the Liberal Party, is embarrassing. The self-styled 'better money managers', the party that brands itself as 'financially responsible', is facing a trillion-dollar debt that Australian taxpayers will be paying off for the next century. Yet, somehow, this government has still managed to be the second-highest-taxing government over the past 30 years. Australians are paying almost $5,000 more tax every year under the Liberals than under the last Labor government in 2013. And what did they spend it on? What do they have to show for it? Maybe they can reflect on the $40 billion of JobKeeper payments that went to companies that shouldn't have qualified for them. What a proud moment for this Treasurer! This Treasurer, the member for Kooyong, will go down in history as overseeing the single biggest waste of public money since Federation, and still this Liberal government has the temerity to go out there in public and claim it is the party of fiscal responsibility. If this Treasurer was your accountant, you would have fired him long ago! You wouldn't trust him to run your piggy bank, let alone the nation's finances. We simply cannot risk another three years of Liberal fiscal mismanagement. Their incompetence threatens the financial security of millions of Australians, and they simply have to go.
But the failures of this tired Liberal government are not limited to their financial incompetence. The economy is suffering under the government's watch. Productivity has been flatlining, and poor productivity performance means a smaller economy overall.
One in four Australian businesses are experiencing critical skills shortages. We've seen a rapid decline in qualified apprentices and trainees entering the workforce—a 44 per cent drop in my home state of Tasmania over the past six years, compared to under the Labor government. Just imagine that: in the last six years of the Labor government, we qualified a million apprentices and trainees; in these last six years of the Liberal government, there were 500,000—they halved it. Outrageous!
At the same time, there are two million Australians who are either looking for a job or want to work more hours. We need a plan to train people, through TAFE and higher education, to fill the critical skill shortages, now and into the future. We need a plan to ensure that there are more opportunities for more people in more parts of the country, especially regional areas. And Labor has that plan. A Labor government will provide 465,000 free TAFE places in areas of critical skills shortage, including 45,000 new TAFE places. Under Labor's plan for free TAFE, we will focus on those areas which are currently seeing that critical skills gap because of the Morrison government's abject neglect. Free TAFE will help rebuild industries hit hardest by the pandemic, like hospitality, tourism and construction. Free TAFE will help meet current and future needs in the care economy by training people for jobs in child care, aged care, disability care, nursing and community services, and free TAFE will provide more opportunities for apprentices and trainees to upskill in areas of need such as trades and construction. Free TAFE also provides opportunities for school leavers, workers wanting to retrain or upskill and unpaid carers. On top of that, Labor will also provide 20,000 new university places for areas of need, most principally across regional Australia.
Labor wants a future made in Australia, and that means investing in our best resource—and, no, it's not coal; it's people. Australia is blessed with natural resources, but under this government we are missing out on an opportunity to value-add and employ Australians in manufacturing. A Labor government will invest in our manufacturing sector and get the cheapest energy to where it's needed through an overdue upgrade to our outdated energy grid. With cheap and abundant renewable energy, our manufacturing sector will create jobs for Australians. It's all part of Labor's better future, made in Australia plan. And it's a great plan, because for Australia to succeed and build back stronger after the pandemic we must be a country that makes things again.
We've seen the consequences of this Liberal government's neglect over the past nine years—fewer jobs, missed opportunities and a nation left exposed when the coronavirus hit. Labor will rebuild our proud manufacturing industry and build a future made right here in Australia. We want to build ferries and buses right here. We want one in 10 jobs on major federal infrastructure projects to be given to apprentices, trainees and cadets to upskill the next generation of workers. We want to invest in clean energy to cut power bills and realise Australia's potential as a renewable superpower.
The truth is that Australians cannot afford another decade like the last. We cannot afford another decade defined by economic complacency and poor productivity. We cannot afford another decade marred by stagnant wage growth and skyrocketing living costs. To boost productivity we need investment in energy, technology, infrastructure and human capital. This Prime Minister, this Treasurer, this government will never understand that. They will never understand why you can't rort and waste your way to success. It's all they've ever known.
Good governments don't not spend their days abusing public money in order to shore up marginal seats. Good governments don't spend their time crafting colour coded spreadsheets and overriding expert recommendations in order to suit their naked political purposes. Good governments act with decency and integrity and have a vision for not only the people who voted for them but also the people who didn't vote for them. Sadly, this is not a government that acts with decency or integrity. This Liberal government shuns both of these virtues in favour of dodgy dealings and self-promotion.
It's been 1,161 days since the Prime Minister announced that his government would establish a federal anticorruption watchdog, and what has happened? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The Attorney-General admitted this week that it won't happen. It's pathetic. What a disgrace. What a blight on this parliament and on this government. A government that shirks accountability and integrity is a government that has something to hide. But you cannot hide incompetence, and this tired Liberal government has been exposed for what it is: unsuited for office, unfit to lead the nation and unwilling to take action on critical issues.
Just look at the state of aged care in this country. It fills me with rage, the state of aged care in this country. Not only did the government fail on the vaccine rollout. It failed to provide even one single federal quarantine facility. It also failed to order enough rapid antigen tests. It failed to take appropriate action to protect our most vulnerable citizens during a global pandemic. It promised that they'd be first for the vaccines, and too many were left waiting. Even before the pandemic, we knew the state of aged care was in crisis from the royal commission's interim report entitled Neglect. Aged-care residents even now are malnourished and frightened, and they are dying in their beds, often cut off from their families.
Dedicated aged-care workers come to this parliament to talk to us, in tears, about the fact that they can't do enough. They don't have the time to put into caring for people. So many of them are using their own lunchbreaks and time off just to hold a hand because they don't have time to do it on their shift. Those aged-care workers don't get paid enough. We know this. They're at their wits' end trying to keep their residents alive and cared for. We have an aged-care-services minister who has presided over—
A division h aving been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 17:55 to 18:0 2
As I was saying, dedicated aged-care workers are at their wits' end trying to keep their residents alive and cared for, and we have a minister for aged-care services who has presided over 1,600 COVID related deaths in aged care and who ditched a Senate committee meeting to sit at the cricket, and he's still in cabinet. My advice to the Prime Minister: don't just give Tudge the nudge; get rid of Colbeck too. It is unforgivable. It is sickening. Senator Colbeck must resign today or be sacked by this Prime Minister.
In the short time I've got left to speak, I want to address some of issues that were raised in question time today. The contributions by the Prime Minister and the defence minister were absolutely reprehensible, playing petty domestic politics with national security and defence. It's important to say that Australia's relationship with China is a long and complex one. There have been positive aspects and difficult aspects of the relationship under both Labor and coalition governments. But I will not sit back and allow the Prime Minister and the defence minister to concoct a fantasy in the public's minds about Labor's position. It's important to note that in 2004, in a statement that was reported as 'sure to please Beijing', Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer said that, in the case of a military clash over Taiwan, ANZUS was 'symbolic' and Canberra would not side with Taiwan. In 2007 Liberal defence minister Brendan Nelson said:
I have … reassured China that so-called quadrilateral dialogue with India is not something that we are pursuing.
In 2008, when Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd admonished China for human rights abuses in Tibet, Liberal opposition leader Brendan Nelson said:
I don't know whether it's wise to have broadcast it as publicly as he seems to be doing.
In 2009, when Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd issued a visa to Uighur separatist leader Rebiya Kadeer, senior Liberal Philip Ruddock described that decision as 'a mistake'. In 2009 Prime Minister Rudd refocused Australia's defensive naval power in response to China's increasing military spending. The response from the Liberal opposition leader and later Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was that it made 'no sense to base its long-term strategy on the highly contentious proposition that Australia is on an inevitable collision course with a militarily aggressive China'. Chris Ullman reported that 'the Chinese agree'. In 2012 the Labor government, citing national security, banned Chinese company Huawei from involvement in the NBN. The ban sparked fury from Huawei's Australian board members including former Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer, who described the ban as 'completely absurd'. Senior Liberals Andrew Robb and Malcolm Turnbull said the ban should be lifted.
We come to 2015 and unnamed Australian defence officials expressed angst and our US allies were annoyed that the Liberal government gave long-term control of Darwin port to a company closely aligned with the Chinese government. Liberal trade minister Andrew Robb said, 'We have to act in the national interest, and that is what has happened with the port of Darwin.' A few months later, he went to work for the company, and in 2019 Robb accused Australian intelligence officials of spreading anti-China sentiment, saying 'the evidence was not there'. I say all this because it's important to remember that the relationship with China is long and complex, and members can trawl through Hansard and the press to find all sorts of things said by members from all sides about this relationship with China.
The key thing to remember is that we are stronger when we present a united front on the international stage, and until this week that is precisely what we've done as a nation. Coalition and Labor can have our differences internally, but out there on the international stage we have presented a bipartisan front. And that compact was broken this week by the petty politicking of the Prime Minister and his defence minister. They are reprehensible. They are serving the interests of foreign powers. That's what is happening. We had evidence today from DFAT that Beijing seeks to exploit political division in Australia. The Prime Minister is playing into Beijing's hands for his own naked political purposes. He can serve the Liberal Party's political interest or he can serve the national interest, but he can't serve both and he must make up his mind.
Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Today was a sad, sad day in Australia's parliament. Today we saw the spectacle of an Australian prime minister who either didn't know or didn't care that he was doing the bidding of the Chinese communist party in our parliament. He either didn't know, was too stupid, was out of his depth on national security and defence or didn't care and just put his own short-term political interests first. DFAT has made it clear that the Chinese communist party—this is no secret, we all know it—seeks to 'exploit social and other divisions in countries to pursue its interests'. That is very apparent. We know the work of the United Front around the world trying to divide democratic governments in Liberal societies in order to pursue the agenda of the Chinese communist party. This Prime Minister either didn't know or didn't care and took the bait, hook, line and sinker. In fact, he didn't just take the bait; he was the trout that jumped into the boat.
At another time in a different strategic context we had a term for this, 'a useful idiot'. That's what we saw in the parliament today, the Prime Minister as a useful idiot of the Chinese communist party. However, the extraordinary things about what we saw today is that they can't even do things competently. Just like every scare campaign the Morrison government are running at the moment, they are so divided that they run both sides of their scare campaigns. Today we saw the utterly disgusting spectacle of my friend the member for Corio having his integrity impugned in this parliament. I won't repeat the slur because it was unbecoming of the Prime Minister and the parliament, and the Prime Minister did reluctantly withdraw it subsequently. But this slur came in the same week that the Minister for Defence, his so-called partner in crime in this ridiculous scare campaign against the Labor Party, gave an interview to Peter FitzSimons in the 9 newspapers. Let me quote what Peter Dutton had to say about the member for Corio two days before the Prime Minister's absurd attack on him in the parliament today:
On the current frontbench my first pick would be Richard Marles with whom I have a long-standing friendship. I have a friendship with a number of other Labor MPs, past and present, but Richard Marles I think has a particular quality and capacity and intellect that if you're being objective you would admire.
This is the man who the Prime Minister smeared two days later. This is the man whose integrity was, absurdly, questioned two days later.
It did jog my memory, though, hearing a ridiculous Liberal Party scare campaign when it comes to Corio. It took me back to the 1938 Corio by-election. The Tories have a long history in this country. They were the United Australia Party back then, they weren't the Liberal Party, but the Tories have always loved a scare campaign on national security, no matter how poor their record. In the 1938 Corio by-election, Robert Menzies, who later urged negotiations with Hitler 10 days after the invasion of Poland, ran a scare campaign against our great wartime leader John Curtin, a hero of this nation, with the absurd campaign slogan—
this was the campaign slogan in the Corio by-election in 1938—'The eyes of Hitler are on Corio.' This is the legacy of those opposite in running ridiculous scare campaigns on defence and national security.
There's John Curtin, a hero of this nation, who gave his life to serve this nation—
who saved this country in the Second World War—
Rick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
who took Australian troops to defend this country in the Second World War—
Rick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Order! Order! Member for Gellibrand—
Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
and then there's the coward Robert Menzies, who wouldn't serve in World War I—
Rick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
The member for Gellibrand—
Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
who took this country to war and wouldn't serve himself, the coward—
Rick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Member for Gellibrand, can you just take your seat for a moment. I'm going to ask all members, on both sides, to behave with a little bit of decorum. There's uncontrolled shouting going on. Please control yourselves.
Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
This is the record on national security issues that they are so ashamed of. 'Hitler's eyes are on Corio'— It sounds familiar from what we heard in question time in the parliament today.
What happened in that by-election? Well, Mr Curtin, the hero of this nation who saved us in the Second World War, said that the voters of Corio wouldn't listen to these nonsensical scare campaigns. They might pay attention to Mr Menzies's failure to prepare Australia for the strategic circumstances that we found ourselves in in the forties, but they were more likely to care about the bread-and-butter issues that he was running on at the time.
What happened? The voters of Corio agreed. They gave a resounding election victory to the Labor Party, to Mr Dedman, in that by-election, and John Curtin went on to become a national hero, leading Australia through the grave challenges of the Second World War. He put Australia's interests first, ignored the forelock tugging of the Tories, and turned Australia towards the US, the foundation for ANZUS, because he, like all members of the Labor Party, put our long-term national interests first. We don't play short-term, partisan, petty political games because we're desperate in the polls, like this Prime Minister.
In question time yesterday, the Minister for Home Affairs continued this government's desperate politicisation of Australian national security by taking a dorothy dixer on cybersecurity. That's my portfolio. In her answer to the question—
The DE PUTY SPEAKER: Member for Moncrieff, please give some respect to the speaker.
I know the member for Moncrieff aspires to a portfolio on the frontbench, and that's why she sold her values out in the recent debate on the Religious Discrimination Bill, but she's going to be waiting for some time. The home affairs minister, her neighbour on the Gold Coast, said:
We understand that national security is a very serious task and not one that should be risked to a party that lacks the resolve or the gravitas to tackle serious issues in a responsible and resolute way.
Well, let's compare the records of the two parties on cybersecurity over the past three years. This Prime Minister's first act on becoming Prime Minister was to abolish the dedicated role for cybersecurity in the ministry that had been established in the 2016 Commonwealth cybersecurity strategy by his predecessor. In the face of worsening cyberthreats from state and non-state actors alike, this Prime Minister created a political leadership vacuum on cybersecurity, at the worst possible time. Cybersecurity is relegated to the bottom of the home affairs minister's already lengthy to-do list, beneath even the Ruby Princess, it seems. Cybersecurity policy-making became adrift in this government and has been ever since. In contrast, the Leader of the Opposition had the foresight to retain a dedicated role for cybersecurity in his ministerial team—and that's my role on the frontbench on the opposition side—and Labor has been leading the policy debate ever since.
In 2020 we released the 'National cyber resilience' discussion paper, which highlights the systemic risks of cyberthreats to Australia's national resilience. We emphasise that cybersecurity is a whole-of-nation endeavour that cannot be pursued from behind the ramparts of the defence and security establishment silos of government. In this discussion paper, we flag the need for interventions that project the outstanding cybersecurity capabilities of our agencies across government and into the broader community. We flag that the potential of initiatives like the UK National Cyber Security Centre's Active Cyber Defence program, which delivers a range of scalable, automated interventions and tools designed to address commodity-level cyberthreats and to lift the baseline of cyberresilience.
In the wake of the release of this discussion paper from the opposition, I was pleased to see some of these principles adopted in ASD's Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response package, CESAR, particularly in the form of Telstra's Cleaner Pipes initiative. This was welcome, but there's much more we could be doing in this space. We could be a lot more ambitious and a lot more aggressive, and I'm keen to explore the potential for the ACSC to collaborate with the NCSC on active cyberdefence through the AUKUS agreement.
We've seen a similar pattern when it comes to ransomware. As the shadow minister with policy responsibility in this area, from the moment I took on this portfolio, I was hearing loud and clear from CISOs in the public and private sectors that the ransomware threat was growing on a completely unsustainable trajectory and that the Morrison government's hands-off blame-the-victim approach needed to change. In the absence of a dedicated ministerial role for cybersecurity, the Morrison government did not hear this message and it did not act. Indeed, the former home affairs minister and current defence minister did not once mention the word 'ransomware' in the parliament during his entire time in the role, despite the issue growing into a $1 billion drag on the Australian economy during that time.
In contrast, Labor led the debate, ultimately releasing a discussion paper calling for a national ransomware strategy designed to increase the costs and reduce the returns of ransomware attacks on Australian organisations by using all the policy levers available to government. I campaigned on the need for a national ransomware strategy for eight months and even introduced a private member's bill on the issue before the Morrison government finally acted and released a ransomware action plan, which I suppose is completely different—the marketing spin is different, at least.
I'm pleased that, since then, the Morrison government has picked up many of the policy ideas that we included in our Time for a national ransomware strategy discussion paper, including the increased use of offensive cyberoperations to deter the targeting of Australian organisations; a ransomware notification scheme; a sanctions regime targeting individual hackers; and a task force inside the AFP to address the cyberenforcement gap. Again, Labor led and the Morrison government followed on this important issue in national security.
The lack of political leadership on cybersecurity within the Morrison government has also led it to undervalue the role of the broader Australian cybersecurity ecosystem, outside of government, in building Australia's national cyberresilience. We see this in the fact that, unlike the 2016 Commonwealth cybersecurity strategy, local industry development is completely missing as an objective in the 2020 cybersecurity strategy. The institutions that were put in place by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to grow Australia's domestic cybersecurity industry are completely gone. They don't exist under the 2020 strategy. There's no joined-up Commonwealth strategy to align procurement, industry development and R&D policy, to encourage the development of our domestic cybersecurity or our domestic critical technologies industries. There's a similar blindness to the role of independent security researchers or even private-sector cybersecurity firms in building Australia's national cyberresilience. I have long campaigned for the increased use of vulnerability disclosure processes by Commonwealth entities to harness the contributions of independent security researchers. People are giving their time voluntarily to try and uplift the cybermaturity and cyberresilience of the Commonwealth.
I was pleased, after giving speeches in this place, to see this adopted as a recommended cybersecurity control in the Information security manual. But take-up of VDPs across the Commonwealth remains patchy—it's not a mandatory control to be implemented—and the use of bug bounties is almost non-existent, despite the fact that this is now a very common tool used by our allies to lift cybermaturity and cyberresilience, in the US and in the United Kingdom. The US has run the Hack the Pentagon program for many years now, and it has discovered literally thousands of vulnerabilities in US national security and defence agencies through bug bounty programs. The United Kingdom, through its National Cyber Security Centre, has mandated the use of vulnerability disclosure processes in all UK government entities and even runs a vulnerability process of last resort itself for situations where that fails. We can do far better in Australia. We can learn from the example of our security allies.
It's the same story when it comes to private sector incident responders. We need a step change in the level of collaboration between the ACSC and private incident responder firms, something that is the norm for our international allies. I know that, at the moment, the US and the UK are experiencing a significant uptick in cyberattacks targeting both government and significant private sector entities. It's associated with the tensions in, and the increasing aggression towards, the state of Ukraine that we are seeing. We are seeing constant cyberattacks on government entities there, more than the incident responders within the NCSC can respond to itself. So, understandably, the NCSC is working with private sector incident responders on a day-by-day basis. It's working hand in glove, sharing information and sharing interventions. This is just something that we do not see happening in Australia. We can do so much better here.
Commonwealth cybersecurity policy is in need of a significant culture change, but it won't happen until we have political leadership in this space and until we address the political vacuum created by this Prime Minister—by the Morrison government when it abolished the dedicated office of cybersecurity in the ministry. The Morrison government is intent on politicising defence and national security in the lead-up to the federal election. We know that this desperate Prime Minister thinks it's in his short-term political interests to play games with these most important issues.
I'm going to do something outrageous here today. I've already quoted Peter Dutton, the defence minister, favourably. I'll now quote from the valedictory speech of George Brandis, the former Attorney-General. For a very substantial portion of that speech, Senator Brandis warned this parliament of the perils of politicising national security and defence. It's one of those speeches that you listen to, as an opposition member, and you know that the message is not meant for you. He was calling for bipartisanship, but he warned about the 'powerful voices' inside the coalition party room that were calling for a different approach—for a short-term, petty, partisan approach. It's very clear after this sitting fortnight who the powerful voices that Senator Brandis was referring to in that speech belong to. Senator Brandis was right when he said bipartisanship on national security and defence serves the national interest. It helps Australia face the very serious security challenges we face. It strengthens our hands in the face of authoritarian adversaries. And those opposite that would seek to traduce this in the pursuit of short-term political gain are doing this nation an enormous disservice.
Darren Chester (Gippsland, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I agree with some of the things that my friend the member for Gellibrand had to say. It is a time for leadership in this place. It is a time to unite Australians and to seek consensus, not division. I'd like to speak tonight in relation to the ongoing challenges associated with the recovery from the Black Summer bushfires. We must never forget that many Australians are still recovering from those tragic events of two summers ago, where much of the east coast of Australia was devastated by fires. In my electorate of Gippsland, hundreds of homes were lost. Lives were lost, property was lost, stock was lost. Over the past two years, a lot of really good work has been done by my community in partnership with local, state and federal government, but we still face many challenges as we work through the longer-term recovery issues.
But in good news, just yesterday the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program was finally announced. I believe in giving credit where it's due, and, to be fair, I was quite outspoken in my criticism of the program when it was first announced. I make no apology for those criticisms because, at the time of the announcement of the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program, there was a notional allocation applied to the East Gippsland region of just $4½ million. I found that notional allocation to be unacceptable, and I made my point very well known to the minister and to the National Recovery and Resilience Agency. But that's history. The concerns of my community were listened to by NRRA and by the government. They heard my community's concerns, and they worked to provide a bigger pool of funding for the most impacted communities.
I want to recognise in this place a couple of staff members in Senator McKenzie's office who worked with me on this program and assisted greatly in arguing for increased funding: Emma Geoghegan, who has now left the office, and Karina Menday, who has been working with me as we deal with some unintended consequences of the program we're trying to resolve for some of the unsuccessful bidders. I thank both those staff members for the constructive way they've worked with me. And for Senator McKenzie's staff: I salute you for that. I thank the minister for being able to argue the case within the ERC process to increase the funding for the Black Summer grants program from $280 million to $390 million.
The broader region of East Gippsland will receive about $30 million out of that program. That is fantastic news for my community. It's one of the most disadvantaged regions in Australia. It experiences low-socioeconomic indicators around household income and has experienced great challenges with the combined impacts of droughts, bushfires and coronavirus. That has had a really deleterious impact on the people of East Gippsland. The projects that were announced yesterday will go a long way to instilling additional hope and confidence in the community.
Some of the projects that were announced yesterday had been on the books of the community for many years and even predated the bushfires. I congratulate the East Gippsland Shire Council on some of their successful bids. The Bairnsdale Aerodrome project is getting $9.6 million. The aerodrome was a critical asset during the bushfire response, relief and recovery phases. It was used as a base for civilian aircraft and defence aircraft. The aerodrome needs significant upgrades. That $9.6 million will be well received.
The Mallacoota Surf Life Saving Club consisted of a caravan. It is a very humble club. That humble club's caravan was burnt to the ground during the bushfires. We worked very constructively in the immediate aftermath of the fires with the Minderoo Foundation. The Twiggy Forrest foundation supported my efforts to secure funding for that group. Partner surf lifesaving clubs in the region assisted with new equipment. We were able to replace the caravan with a new Jayco Basestation, which was very well received. I'm afraid that the humble Jayco Basestation will be surpassed by the $2.5 million multipurpose club that's going to be developed in partnership with the SES and Coast Guard. It's a great win for the surf lifesaving club.
Another really interesting project is the Snowy River railway trestle bridge. It's an old wooden bridge that has basically been demolished by neglect by the state government. Since the rail services were taken away from Orbost the bridge has been slowly crumbling. We secured $3 million from the state government quite recently to begin the restoration work. Yesterday I was pleased to see another $1 million going to that project. That will allow the trestle bridge to be used by pedestrians and cyclists as they traverse the East Gippsland Rail Trail, which we have also been successful in securing funding for. These are all good projects for the visitor economy and also very important for the liveability of my region and encouraging people to have more active lifestyles. I really do congratulate the community for working over a period of years to secure that funding.
Other projects will be well received: the Mallacoota Mudbrick Pavilion upgrade, $493,000; the Mallacoota bowls club, $85,000; and the Mallacoota Gun Club, $276,000. You might notice a pattern there. They are all in Mallacoota. Mallacoota is a sleepy little village on the coast of my region. It was the most directly impacted town during the Black Summer bushfires. There were 135 homes lost. In the days that followed we experienced the most incredible evacuation of civilians by the Australian Defence Force off the coast of Mallacoota. HMAS Choulesand MV Sycamore transferred I think 1,500 people and their dogs and cats and a few parrots as well. It was quite an amazing evacuation of people. The one road into Mallacoota was blocked and it remained blocked for I think about six weeks. That reflects the hardship that the town experienced and also the direct losses that the town experienced. The gun club was burnt down, the bowls club green was damaged and the pony club facilities were destroyed. All these things take money to replace.
Another interesting project that was funded yesterday is the East Gippsland Timber Milling Project. This is a project that I think we could look at rolling out across Australia in response to disasters in the future. A portable sawmill, with trained staff, is established on a person's property and the timber that has fallen on their own land is milled. It allows the farmers or other landholders to use that timber for re-establishing the fencing and stockyards or for even as feature timber in their own homes. It has been very well received in my community. That additional $520,000 will be greatly appreciated right across the region.
Another project that I'm particularly happy about is in the little town of Bend River. It's another town that has one road in and one road out. It suffered enormous economic losses when all the visitors had to leave during the Black Summer bushfires. The East Gippsland shire has been successful in securing $1 million for a path through the town, which again encourages Gippslanders and visitors to our region to have healthy active lifestyles. These are great wins for the community. Again, I recognise the NRRA, and the minister's office worked in a constructive way to increase the pool of funding and to ensure that some of the communities most directly impacted by the fires were supported.
Of course, in any of these types of programs, not every applicant is successful. The fundamental flaw in a program like this is that local MPs very often get absolutely no say in helping to establish some of the priorities. In this case, in my region, some of the most impacted little townships of Buchan, Sarsfield and Wairewa all missed out in their applications, and my challenge now as a local member is to try and work constructively with those community groups, to work with the minister's office, and to work with local and state government authorities to try and find ways to secure funding for their projects. Have no doubt that I won't be giving up on those communities, and I will be working to secure the funding they need to deliver the services the community expects after going through so much hardship. So the battle will continue in that regard.
Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson, I just want to reflect on the recovery process for a moment. You, yourself, have been through bushfires in recent times. Right through the recovery process, the lack of respect for local knowledge held by experienced MPs who have been through fires and floods and natural disasters in the past is a real problem for us in this nation. I fear the role of a local MP in these situations is undervalued. We have a bureaucratic approach, where both state and federal bureaucrats seem to think they know better than the people who've lived through these experiences with their communities in the past. I will be challenging NRRA and Bushfire Recovery Victoria to, in the future, demonstrate a greater understanding of the networks that local MPs often establish over a very long period of time and the appreciation they have of their communities and the challenges they will face in the recovery process. It bothers me enormously that every one of my concerns that I raised with the agencies in the immediate aftermath of the fires have come to fruition because we didn't take the action that could have been taken at an earlier time. We have to look at these issues and understand that there are people who have had direct life experience in the community or in MPs' offices who could be a great asset during the recovery process.
One of the things I will point out in relation to the issues for prevention, recovery and resilience in the face of tragedies like the Black Summer bushfires is that we all know in this country that we are going to have more fires. To have wildfire in Australia, you need three things. You need to have hot, windy days; you need a point of ignition; and you need fuel. This is not rocket science. We know that, every summer in Australia, we are going to have hot, windy days. We know that, every summer in Australia, we are going to have a point of ignition. It could be a lightning strike, an idiot with a match or just an accident. The only thing we can really have an impact on as humans is the fuel load. We have to do more, in partnership with our state government entities, to reduce the fuel load. Hazard reduction is failing miserably in this country and in the state of Victoria. We have to learn from the traditional owners of the land. Indigenous people had firestick technology they applied through thousands of years, and we ignore their learnings, their lessons, at our own peril. Hazard reduction is one thing we should be working much more constructively with the state governments to achieve if we are going to prevent or reduce the impact of these fires. If we had been doing the hazard reduction work, the damage to my community would have been significantly less.
What we saw during the Black Summer bushfires was that every fire started on public land, every fire was a natural lightning strike, and the damage was done on the public land-private land interface. That's where people lost their homes, lost their fences, lost their stock. We need to be working to secure critical asset protection through fuel reduction, mulching and removal of fuel from around the townships to make sure that people are protected in these dangerous conditions.
There is only one thing worse than three-word slogans, and that's four-word slogans: more boots, less suits. We need more boots and less suits—more boots on the ground doing the practical environmental work and less suits in the city making excuses for why things can't be done. So I call on the state government to work in a constructive way with my community and with the federal government to ensure that we are doing the preventative work on natural resource management right throughout the state, not just in response to a disaster but well ahead of the fire season—things like slashing roadsides.
The Princes Highway was closed for more than a month. That's simply not good enough in 2020. It was closed because there was too much vegetation on the roadside. The community was ecstatic after the event when the crews went through and actually cleared 30 metres on both sides. It makes the road safer, but it also improves lines of sight so they can see oncoming vehicles, and it reduces the chance of hitting things like kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, as well. So maintaining the roadsides in a safe manner and mulching the vegetation along the roadsides is something that my community is keen to pursue. We are the custodians of a vast natural estate in Gippsland, but we have very few staff on the ground, in agencies like Parks Victoria, DELWP and Regional Roads Victoria, to actually do that maintenance work in our communities. It's a huge job opportunity, for those of us who live in those rural and regional communities, to have trained staff in the area, doing that great work on our behalf.
While I'm talking about the resilience of the road network, I have to reflect on those communities which have one road in and one road out. It is incumbent upon us at the federal level, and also at the state level, to support those communities with critical asset protection so they can be safe in times of natural disaster. People are going to visit those towns. People live in those towns. We have to maintain safe access for them in times of natural disaster. I give credit to the state government during the last bushfire period, the Black Summer bushfires. The warnings that were issued in partnership with the ABC, as the emergency services broadcaster, were very clear and encouraged people to get out of those communities well ahead of the danger period. But we need to do more work in terms of critical asset protection, prevention, recovery and resilience work.
While I have the opportunity, can I also extend my community's incredible thanks to the Australian Defence Force for the role they played during those bushfires. Having the Army, Navy and Air Force working in partnership with the civilian agencies was something that I have never seen before in my community. But what I learnt from that is that the civilian agencies really don't have a great understanding of the capability of the Australian Defence Force. How the Bushmasters can access areas that the Toyota LandCruisers can't came as a bit of a surprise to some of the civilian agencies. So I think more training between civilian and defence agencies is important and something we should aim to do on a regular basis throughout our region.
Finally, I just want to thank Gippslanders for the way they've shown extraordinary resilience and stuck together in what has been a long recovery process. I'm proud to represent that community in this place, and I recognise there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of the recovery from the bushfires. The $30-odd million we announced the other day will be a great help, but it won't solve all our problems. We need to keep working together. You won't hear me in this place talking Australians down or talking Gippslanders down. We have to right now as a nation, as a parliament, show leadership, be as optimistic and as relentlessly positive as we possibly can, unite wherever possible and, please, seek consensus wherever we can, not division.
Rob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills before the House. One of the most fundamental roles of the federal government is to ensure that communities across the country have access to Commonwealth funding. This funding is essential for ensuring the health, safety and security of our electorates. Unfortunately, throughout the almost decade of the Liberal-Nationals government, there has not been an equitable division of Commonwealth funds across our electorates. What we have seen is this government using the public purse as its own personal slush fund. When grants programs work the way they are supposed to, we see benefit right across the nation, in all our electorates. We see regional areas strengthened. We see critical infrastructure expanded. We see communities thrive. This has not happened under the Morrison government for the very simple reason that they're more interested in their own political survival than they are in the welfare of the Australian people.
Many Labor and Independent held electorates across the country, like our electorate of McEwen, have been neglected by this Morrison government. The electorate of McEwen has been waiting for federal funding for the Macedon Ranges Regional Sports Precinct since 2018. The project has been fully planned and has continued to involve collaboration with community groups, sporting associations, the state government, the local council and me. The Macedon Ranges council have committed $10.7 million. The Victorian government has committed $11.6 million. The AFL has committed $100,000. Both the state and local governments recognise the need for a growing community to have access to sporting facilities, and it's these facilities that help our community thrive through the teamwork, collaboration and health within a quickly growing area like McEwen.
Despite application after application to the federal government for a grant under the Building Better Regions Fund, the Morrison government has refused to fund this project and, in fact, has misled the community on multiple occasions by getting them to put applications in and not doing a thing. The excuse is that the funding process is competitive, but, of the 54 community projects approved for funding under the grants scheme, 43 went to councils and organisations within Liberal electorates.
The reality is that the Morrison government are using this grant scheme as their personal slush fund and ignoring communities like Macedon Ranges who would benefit from this money. It's no wonder that the government are failing to introduce a national anticorruption commission and that the plans they have made are only for a commission without retrospective powers. It's pretty clear what the Morrison government are afraid of. They are afraid of facing accountability for the shameful way in which they have allocated public funds throughout their time in government. Electorates like McEwen deserve proper Commonwealth support as much as any other. We're fed up with having our needs overlooked and disregarded by this government. There are so many areas of funding in which the government is failing our communities, and the cries for help fall on deaf ears.
One of the biggest issues facing families in our electorate is child care. The Liberal government have been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on childcare reform, and the issue has only intensified throughout the course of the pandemic. Due to the immense pressure and hard work from the member for Kingston, the Liberal government, after ignoring the calls of Australian women and families, business leaders, economists and the early learning sector for years, finally were dragged kicking and screaming to do a patch-up on child care. But, instead of the real support that Australian families need, what the government delivered was a cynical attempt to deal with their ongoing PR crisis. The provisions did nothing to help millions of families struggling across our nation. Beyond the hype and the media spin, the government's plan for child care fails to benefit the majority of Australian families.
Labor's childcare plan would benefit around one million Australian families. The government's plan would only support about a quarter of that and only those families with more than one child requiring child care. Then, when the eldest child of such families begins attending school, the extra support provided will be ripped away. In contrast, Labor's childcare plan benefits 86 per cent of all Australian families with children under six, regardless of how many children they have. The vast majority of low- and middle-income-earning families would be better off under Labor, even the families who would see some of the benefits under the government's childcare plan. The Morrison government is leaving our families behind and denying support to those who are in need of it most.
A few months ago we received an email from a woman in the electorate named Doreen, who has two children, both aged under four. Think about this, Deputy Speaker. Doreen and her husband both work full time, and they're spending $3,000 a month on child care. It's like a second mortgage. Like many families, they had hoped that the government's promised increase in support for child care would help give them financial relief right now, but the childcare support put forward by this government will not come into effect until July this year. By that point, Doreen's oldest child will be attending kindergarten, and her family will no longer be able to get the benefits anyway. It's always about announcement, but, when you get through the detail, there is always a catch. There is always a little hook from this government that leaves people short and short-changes Australian families.
An honourab le member: Ts and Cs apply!
Exactly! Thousands of families across Australia and in our electorate are in the same position. They need relief now. But the government are still dragging their feet and failing to support the families who need it. The government like to claim they support families, but, below the surface and beyond the marketing campaigns, the only thing the government are interested in is making an empty promise, making an announcement, and a plan which fails to benefit most Australian families.
I will turn to health care. Our healthcare systems are in desperate need of assistance as well. Particularly, the regional areas of my electorate are in dire need of increased funding and Commonwealth support. Every week I am inundated with calls from my constituents. They are scared—parents of young children, families and partners of those struggling with chronic illness, healthcare workers who are overwhelmed with the demand for their services. They ring my office regularly with harrowing stories of the strain on local GP clinics in our electorate. There simply aren't enough doctors in our towns to look after the needs of our communities. Parents with sick children cannot find doctors to treat them. Our GPs are doing the very best they can, but they are overworked, tired and struggling to keep up.
The government have failed rural electorates. In McEwen, families are faced with weeks-long waits for appointments with a GP. The government want Australians to believe that their incentive programs are going to fix this, but what they're not telling you is that many of the communities that are most in need, including those in McEwen, aren't going to see any of the money from the programs. We have written to the federal Minister for Health and Aged Care on numerous occasions to ask for urgent assistance for our region, but we've had no support in the responses. Meanwhile, every day the people of McEwen are turned away from GP clinics and emergency rooms because there are not enough doctors to care for them.
This is not the level of medical care that should be acceptable in Australia, especially in the midst of a pandemic and while our country is attempting to deal with COVID. You can never be sure when you or your family might need to see a doctor, but if you do you want to know that one will be available. Time and time again the Morrison government has put politics above the lives of Australians. The fact that the Morrison government has failed to secure basic medical care for the people of McEwan and so many other Australians across the country, you would think would be an embarrassment to the coalition, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. The state of rural and regional health care is a damning indictment on the priorities of this government.
If the issues plaguing regional health care within our electorate were not bad enough, we turn to the state of aged care under the Morrison government, which is even worse. Aged-care residents have suffered more than any other group throughout the course of this pandemic. Today in question time we heard responses that were pretty much just, 'Well, that's how it is.' When a minister of the Crown spends his time at the cricket and not facing up to the challenges of his job, with any normal government at any normal time—and you can go back and read Erskine May and look at every single Reps practice—you would expect in a situation like that the minister should resign. That is the history of the Westminster system, but it's not the history of a government that is covered in corruption.
Aged-care homes are being forced to lock down in response to COVID infection. During such times, many residents lose the capacity to communicate and interact with family and their support networks, making the staffing crisis experienced in their homes and the anxieties associated with COVID even more difficult to cope with. More than two years into this pandemic the situation in aged care is just as dire as it's ever been. Across the country we hear reports of understaffed aged-care homes, residents' buzzers being left unattended and residents left to die alone.
Our criticism of the Morrison government's response to the aged-care crisis is not politics. It is not political mudslinging; it is just a fact. The Morrison government delayed and outright rejected many of the crucial recommendations that their own royal commission—a royal commission they were forced into because they didn't want it—put forth as necessary changes for the reform of this industry. The government's plan includes none of the recommended workforce changes that the royal commission outlined as being required. There is nothing to improve the wages of overstretched and undervalued workers in the aged-care industry. This government has ignored the recommendations and failed every single one of those workers. They have shirked primary responsibility for the mandatory care of aged-care residents. The proposal does not meet the recommendation made by the royal commission that includes cleaning and some administration work as some of the care minutes that will mandated. That simply is not good enough. Staffing levels are central to many of the problems in residential aged care, and these reforms are crucial to increasing the standards of care and ensuring that the horrific stories of neglect that we heard throughout the course of the royal commission do not continue into the future.
If all of this wasn't enough, the government have failed to clear the home-care package waiting list for over 100,000 people, ignoring the wishes of Australians who want to age at home. This has left many older Australians with no option but to go to an overworked, understaffed home which the government has failed to reform. The Morrison government has failed to take any of the steps that Labor and stakeholders have called for over the past two years in particular, and now, in the midst of the pandemic, aged care is what it is due to this neglect and not being able to stop a preventable crisis.
The government's repeated attempts to cut NDIS funding for participants is another example of the way in which the government is rejecting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. The government ripped $4.6 billion out of the NDIS, and the ministry repeatedly failed to act despite 1,200 Australians dying while waiting to be funded by the scheme. My electorate of McEwen is not alone. There are many electorates that are in need of Commonwealth funding and assistance. There are so many programs that need increased funding. Electorates like ours are repeatedly disregarded and disrespected by this immoral and irresponsible Morrison government.
The way in which the Morrison government have continually ignored their responsibility to divide Commonwealth funds in accordance with need is something that a normal person would be embarrassed by. The pork-barrelling, the secret coalition slush funds are definitely an embarrassment at a time when faith in our political institutions is falling. Australians don't pay more tax if they live in coalition-held electorates. They don't work harder, so they don't deserve to get a disproportionate amount of public funds.
People in our communities are sick and tired of being left behind by this government. They are sick and tired of being left behind in child care, in aged care and in health care. They are exhausted by applying again and again for grants that they have no chance of receiving because they haven't made it onto the shifty little spreadsheets that have been brought up over the last few years. The pork-barrelling must end. The cabinet-run slush funds must end. Communities need support. The communities that are suffering are the ones that need the most support, not just those that are in a coalition electorate.
It's time to see the end of this tired, failed, scandal-ridden government. Australians deserve a government that is on their side, a government that is going to stand up and deliver. When we look at things like child care, Medicare and aged care, Labor cares. Only an Albanese Labor government will deliver benefits for all Australians and bring Australians together, rather than what we've seen over the past eight years of division, both inside and outside the cabinet and on the streets. It's time that we replaced this tired, worn-out government with one that is going to be there for you when you need it.
Milton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
While the bills today seek to appropriate a total of around $15.9 billion in 2021 across the two bills—$11.9 billion in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2021-2022 and $4 billion in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2021-2022—I want to talk a little bit about economic management and the failures of this government, in particular what we are seeing at the dying end of a government that seems to be focused more on itself than the people of this country.
I'll start by talking about economic management. I assume this will be a hot topic during the next general election. The government likes to purport that they are great economic managers, that they have steered Australia through the global pandemic. But tonight I want to lift the veil on what we mean when we talk about financial responsibility when it comes to the day-to-day work of the government. It's pretty rich to be receiving lectures on fiscal responsibility from the most wasteful government since Federation, the government that doubled the debt before the pandemic—who can forget the 'Back in black' cups?—and a government that, for the first time in Australia's history, will deliver a trillion dollars of debt.
I remember the days when the debt trucks used to drive around before elections. As a former state secretary and campaign director, you could set your watch by the debt trucks driving around. They normally had trucks with double-sided billboards with 'Labor's debt bomb' on them. Well, I don't know if those debt trucks are on bricks in someone's house, or if they've been run off the road, because what we've seen delivered under this government is a trillion dollars worth of debt. Somehow I don't think we'll have an argument about debt in this country anymore.
The coalition has delivered eight deficits—more consecutive deficits than any other government since the 1920s—and it has projected at least 40 more to come. Despite the repeated hypocritical preaching on their commitment to low taxes, this government is the second-highest taxing government of the last 30 years and is now collecting $4½ thousand more per person than Labor did in 2013. And this is before we get to competency.
Let's look at their record. They failed on the vaccine rollout. They haven't delivered one single new federal quarantine facility. They didn't order enough rapid antigen tests. They presided over a crisis in aged care. They disappeared when workers and small businesses needed them to step up and show leadership. They handed out billions of dollars of JobKeeper payments to businesses whose revenue had increased and they pork-barrelled billions more taxpayer dollars in politically motivated grants.
The failures aren't limited to the budget either. The economy is suffering under this government's watch. Productivity has been flatlining. Poor productivity performance means a smaller economy, an economy that is growing far slower than it could be and it should be. Think about what another decade of failed productivity targets would do to the living standards of ordinary Australians. Unfortunately, the government rorts and wastage don't lead to productivity growth. To really get productivity moving we need investment in energy technology, infrastructure and human capital—in our people, not just the politics.
To analyse why we're in this situation you only need to look at the last two weeks. What has happened in the last two weeks? We've seen a government increasingly obsessed about itself and increasingly divided. Members have crossed the floor, undermining the parliament and undermining the Prime Minister of Australia. We have also seen a government completely destroying itself about integrity and have also seen cracks within its own cabinet.
This is what has happened in just the last two weeks. We have seen the textgate scandal, where former New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian leaked and texted another Liberal cabinet minister—they could be from New South Wales or could be federal—talking about the Prime Minister. That's pretty tawdry stuff. I won't go there, because there's not enough time in today's debate.
Then we saw the former Deputy Prime Minister texting about the current Prime Minister. I won't be able to read into Hansard exactly what the former Deputy Prime Minister said because it contains a word that starts with 'l' and finishes with 'r'. Needless to say the quote goes something like this: 'Tell BH'—which is Brittany Higgins—'I and Scott, he is Scott to me until I have to recognise his office, don't get along. He is a hypocrite'—and someone who doesn't tell the truth—'from my observations and that's over a long time.' And this is the killer bit. He said, 'I have never trusted him and I dislike how he earnestly rearranges the truth' to be something that is not a truth.
This is the second in command in Australia. This is the 2IC. Of course it's embarrassing enough that that has been leaked and is now on the public record, but of course the Prime Minister said he only said that, according to the former Deputy Prime Minister, because we didn't work very well together and we didn't know each other that long. That is despite both of them serving in the cabinet and the current Prime Minister being the Treasurer at the time.
Those sitting at home are wondering what on earth is going on and why this government isn't focused on jobs, the economy, security and all of these things. They simply don't have time to worry about the issues facing Australia. This is TheHunger Games occurring in our nation's capital. It's not the Labor Party launching attacks or the crossbench launching attacks; it's government-on-government violence that we're seeing here.
We saw the serious and, quite frankly, illegal leaks from cabinet last week. Cabinet has been now leaking itself, and not just once but twice. We saw through the Ten Network that Mr Morrison was rolled in a cabinet meeting when he proposed a controversial strategy to get enough votes for his religious discrimination laws which were debated this week and held up in the Senate. It was reported that there was apparently a heated debate in which several ministers, including the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, passionately spoke against the plan.
We know that cabinet is rarely leaked. When you get to this stage it shows a government completely bereft of focusing on Australians and only focusing on themselves. Of course, last night we saw yet another leak. The Prime Minister's inner circle leaked against the former Minister for Education and Youth. His door may have been stripped of the title. Now we know that he doesn't even know whether he has got a job or not. Once again the government are focusing on themselves, not focusing on the people of Australia.
We need investment in infrastructure that will propel our economy forward, like cleaner and cheaper energy and an NBN that will underpin our digital economy. We need investment in our community. We need investment for projects to get people home sooner.
One of my election commitments from 2016 was an update of the Centenary Bridge. Although long overdue, the government has finally heard my pleas and the community's pleas to see this $220-million project invested in. It should not have taken five years. This money was put on the table early by the Palaszczuk Labor government—a government that proudly invests in infrastructure, that proudly delivers for the community. I give my thanks and pay my great respects to the minister for transport, the Hon. Mark Bailey, and also to one of the hardest-working state members in the country, Jess Pugh, the state member for Mount Ommaney, who I'm proud to say is one of my five local state MPs but also someone who fought tooth and nail to deliver this funding for the Centenary Bridge. This work will mean that the current bridge, which is over 50 years old, will be upgraded to six lanes, and the Jindalee off-ramps and on-ramps, finally, will be improved, which will see people getting home quicker but also not sitting in traffic. I'm really proud of this election commitment, and I'll be fighting tooth and nail to make sure this government delivers on its commitment and we see real progress on the Centenary Bridge.
I won't hold my breath, because, with this government and the Prime Minister, when it comes to the announcements and the photo ops, we know that they're great at photo ops and masters of making announcements and then not following through. Just today, we asked yet again about one of the greatest rorts in Australia's history, the car park rorts. When Minister Fletcher was asked about this project, he said, about people in Queensland: 'They're not asking about lines on spreadsheets; they're asking about: "How do we get a facility built so that we can get to work, not turn up and find there is nowhere to park."' That would be okay if the 48 car parks that were promised three years ago had been built. So take a random guess: how many of the 48 car parks have been built? Six. Once again, this government cannot be trusted when it comes to announcements. So, you betcha, I'll be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that we see the Centenary Bridge—the most important critical piece of infrastructure in my electorate—built.
I know there is someone who can be trusted to deliver those projects. That is the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Anthony Albanese—someone who is the most experienced infrastructure minister in this country's history, a former Deputy Prime Minister who has a wealth of experience from sitting in this parliament for over 25 years, and someone who, I know, won't just make promises but will actually deliver on what they say.
We'll have 'A Future Made in Australia' by co-investing in advanced manufacturing and other critical sectors to create jobs, diversify the economy and revitalise our regions through partnerships and businesses, to help turn good ideas into good secure jobs. When I visit businesses in my electorate—and I'm a proud supporter of small businesses; small businesses are the backbone of our economy. I come from a small business background: my parents proudly ran a business that started from scratch when my father came out of World War II and built a successful enterprise in his own name, with my uncle's name as well. We simply cannot allow businesses to suffer anymore under this government. Now, when I talk to local businesses, they simply say the same thing over and over again: they can't find qualified workers to fill their vacancies. They are saying it loud and clear. The skills simply aren't out there.
Those skills are not just going to magically materialise. It will take a government committed to investing in our young people and building our skills base to see any movement in this area. I want to see young Australians given a boost—given a chance at a good education and good skills training. We'll invest in skilling Australians, to make sure that they get ahead, by providing free TAFE and creating more university places.
Labor's $1.2 billion 'A Future Made in Australia' skills plan focuses on tackling skill shortages to help us all move forward through the COVID-19 pandemic and drive future economic growth. We know that, for nearly a decade, this government has cut TAFE and slashed apprenticeships. We now have 70,000 fewer apprenticeships and traineeships, compared to 2013. In my own electorate, there are 1,400 fewer apprentices than when this government came to power. The number has not been staying the same or levelling out; it's gone backwards.
That's why we need 20,000 new university places to fix shortages and fill future skill needs by training Australians in jobs, including engineering, nursing, tech and training, because Australia's economic future lies with its strongest asset—its people.
There's the cost of child care, and the fact that since this government was elected childcare fees have gone up 35 per cent. Combined with a decline in real wages, we've seen the childcare system become completely inaccessible for too many families.
It's no wonder the government can't focus on these things, no wonder they can't talk about building a future for working families in Australia, because they are simply focused on themselves and applying political bandaids to their many, many mistakes. Whether it is disunity, dysfunction or, quite frankly, dishonesty, it is making this government utterly paralysed. That's the central characteristic that defines the government. It doesn't just mean they're competent; it means things aren't getting done. Look at the issues around health and aged care. Quite frankly, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Greg Hunt, will go down in Australia's history as one of the worst health ministers our nation has ever seen.
The incompetence and character of this Prime Minister—where he won't hold a hose; he won't take responsibility. His character is now seen by the whole nation. We know that, time and time again, he cannot be trusted to deliver on the things that matter for all Australians. It's simply not good enough to say, 'It's not my job; it's someone else's job,' or, 'It's the states' responsibility.' We've seen over 700 lives lost in aged care, yet the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services in this country goes to the cricket but retains his job. That says it all. Whether it be leaks, whether it be attacks on the government, we on the side of the chamber know we'll continue to fight for all Australians. (Time expired)
Patrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Australia) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
The Liberal Party claims to be the party of sensible economic management, but what we know is that that's just another broken promise from a very broken government. I remember being incredibly worried about the $40 billion of debt that the WA Liberal Party left the people of Western Australia. The member for Pearce was the Western Australian Treasurer for the duration of the Barnett government. It was a lot of money, $40 billion; it was a huge debt. It's still being paid off. But then the Prime Minister came along and said, 'Hold my beer!' and gave us $1 trillion of debt. Their only plan to pay it back—you can't go and sit in that chair, member for Mackellar; I can't have a go at you then—is a certain member's plan for an inheritance tax. To pay back this thousand billion dollars of Liberal debt, there's a certain member of this place who is running around knocking on the door of the Treasurer, knocking on the door of the Prime Minister and saying, 'Let's have an inheritance tax.' That's the only fresh idea the Liberal Party have.
I hope that their plan for an inheritance tax goes the same way as their plan for the 'back in black' budget that they actually couldn't deliver us, but we do know, when it comes to taxes, that this Prime Minister loves a good tax. It was this Prime Minister, when he was Treasurer, who suggested that we should have the GST increased. He came out and said it was a proposition worth considering. Someone talked him out of it, but I know that idea hasn't gone. They love taxes so much that the Treasurer collected $150 billion more in tax this year than was collected in the last year that Labor was in government. In fact, the two highest taxing governments in the last 30 years have been those led by John Howard and by the current Prime Minister.
I do feel a little bit for Peter Costello. The second-rate Liberals ride on his coat-tails. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister never served a day in government with Peter Costello, yet they ride on his political legacy. At the same time, we know that Australians are paying $4,500 more in tax, per Australian, than they did under Labor in 2013. On top of people having stagnant wages and insecure work, they are paying these very high taxes to fund the Liberal Party's slush funds. This government cannot take any credit for what it claims is economic recovery unless it also takes responsibility for the crises that are happening across this country.
There's a crisis in aged care: in this calendar year alone, we've had some 700 Australians in aged care die of COVID. We do not have enough rapid antigen tests to provide for those who need them. People have been left driving around, from chemist to chemist, week after week. We still don't have a plan for getting the Australian Defence Force over to Western Australia as we start to see an outbreak of COVID in aged-care homes there.
It all starts to feel like this government just does not have a plan. Its only plans are the lived reality of Australians: wages going backwards; people looking for secure, well-paid jobs and being unable to find them; and people paying huge amounts for child care—35 per cent more than when this government first came to office. But there's always someone they can blame. They can blame the cost of beef on the situation in Ukraine. They can blame on the states the fact that they didn't order enough vaccine doses.
We know that people are worried about their lived reality under this government. Look at those who represent aged-care workers in Western Australia. A very well-respected community leader, Carolyn Smith, said:
We only have to look over east to see what COVID has done in aged care facilities.
I think many aged care workers, many residents, many families, are going to be concerned.
Western Australians are hugely concerned about the next few months, and we can't afford to repeat the Prime Minister's mistakes yet again. Western Australia needs a partner in Canberra, not the sort of government that bashes us up, year after year, and then, only at election time, all of a sudden the Prime Minister wants to be Western Australia's best friend—to the absolute disappointment, I should say, of many of the government's backbenchers, who complained about WA's health measures for years and years. We need a government that is actually going to learn the lessons of COVID and invest in our people. That means fixing the holes in our economy, making sure we're a country that makes things again; making sure that we dive into the talents of the Australian people so we again buy Australian. Buying Australian doesn't just mean buying from Liberal Party donors; buying Australian means buying from the hardworking small and medium-sized enterprises across this country, giving them access to the $190 billion of government contracts that are signed every year. As we say, Australian taxpayer dollars should be able to go to Kalgoorlie, not Korea, whenever possible.
Labor has a clear plan on how we start to shift the tide on buying Australian. We'll establish a future made-in-Australia office. We'll assist Australian businesses to bid for those major infrastructure projects that have billions of dollars of federal government money attached to them. We'll make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to secure government contracts, and we'll make sure that businesses that get government contracts look after their workforce. We need to support First Nations businesses so we can maximise the skill transfer and opportunities for those businesses to grow even more. We need to make sure the businesses that are contracting with the Australian government are paying tax in Australia. It would be a much better idea to get companies that operate here to pay tax here, rather than go with these crazy ideas from government backbenchers to have an inheritance tax. We should also support Australian industry—
Jason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Order! You're being disloyal—and provocative, I might add!
Patrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Australia) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I withdraw, Deputy Speaker. I've said all I need to say about the interesting proposal by a particular individual on the government side for an inheritance tax. And why would we be talking about an inheritance tax when instead we could be doing things like cutting taxes? It's only Labor that has committed to cutting taxes on electric vehicles. At the moment, only 0.7 per cent of cars sold in Australia are electric. In the UK and the EU it's 11 per cent. Let's lift that up, and let's do it by cutting taxes on electric vehicles. At the same time, let's fix some of our energy grid. Let's get more community batteries across this country. Labor has a plan to add another 400 across Australia. It will be a welcome addition. I've currently got one lonely community battery in my electorate, in Yokine. It does a great job, but it would be great to have a few more.
We also need to make sure that we start to do the big heavy lifting of rewiring the nation. I'll end my comments talking about rewiring the nation. We know that the electricity grids of Australia are desperately outdated. They were built in the last century—it shows. We've had 22 energy policies from this government, and Australians, again, have paid the price. If we want to have more batteries and if we want to have more renewables, we need a modern, refreshed grid. This is how we act on climate change, it's how we lower power prices and it's how we ensure more productivity in Australia. We know that Australia is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution that we are going to see happen across the world. But we need a government that genuinely believes in climate change, not one that simply believes in advertising about what they say they are doing on climate change. I'll conclude my remarks by saying that, if we act on rewiring the nation and on renewable energy, it means more jobs, more secure jobs, more secure power and more affordable power. And it means that Australia won't get left behind as the global economy transitions.
Jason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Thank you, mostly, to the member for Perth. The member for Greenway.
Michelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Communications) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
In this appropriations bill debate tonight, I would like to predominantly pay tribute to, but also reference, a remarkable man and his son from my electorate of Greenway—Damien MacRae, from Kellyville Ridge, and his son, Aiden. I want to take members back to 2017, to a story that appeared in the local media in Blacktown about Damien MacRae, who was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. Along with his young son, Aiden, who loved LEGO, they decided they wanted to do something positive to raise awareness of melanoma. They got together and designed—bearing in mind that this was when Damien was informed that he had literally months to live—a LEGO prototype for a sun-smart series of characters called LEGO Surf Rescue. This featured LEGO people wearing sunscreen. It was iconically Australian. The characters were dressed in surf-lifesaving outfits. The whole point was that it was not only something that he and his son, Aiden, could do together but also something that could subliminally change peoples' minds about the importance of being sun safe and the dangers of melanoma.
I was really privileged to meet Damien and to spend some time with his family, so much so that I actually moved some private members' business in the parliament on 11 September 2017, entitled 'Melanoma and LEGO Surf Rescue'. In that motion I moved that we acknowledge that Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, that it's the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15 to 39 and also that LEGO is a world-renowned brand with a philosophy to foster imaginative and creative learning and development through play. I also wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate Damien and Aiden on creating this Australian sun-smart beach themed LEGO project, LEGO Surf Rescue, which actually achieved the required 10,000 supporters for the LEGO Ideas Review. I learnt a lot through this process. At that time you needed to have 10,000 followers or endorsements in order for LEGO to think, 'Well, this could be an idea that we might end up taking up.' We also recognised—and I think this was really delightful—that we had cross-party support for this. Russell Broadbent—then the member for McMillan, now the member for Monash—supported it. The motion was seconded by Matt Thistlethwaite, who is the member for Kingsford Smith but also Labor's forefront person for Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving. We really did acknowledge—and I think it did move everyone there—the resilience and positivity that Damien displayed, despite his terminal diagnosis, in raising awareness of the dangers of skin cancer.
In the end, we called on LEGO to support LEGO Surf Rescue and to approve the project to become an official LEGO set. As we are all aware, LEGO has done pretty well during this pandemic. There are some industries have actually thrived, and LEGO and the jigsaw puzzle industry would surely be some of them. I highlighted, in speaking to that motion, as did Mr Broadbent and Mr Thistlethwaite, that the goal of Aiden and his dad, Damien, was for this LEGO set to feature sun-smart Australian heroes wearing hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. They had an Australian beach with waves, surfboards, a sandcastle, lifesavers and a shark. This was iconically Australian. I was really delighted to have been given one of these prototypes, which I proudly displayed in the window of my suite in Parliament House and which my two daughters now play with.
Where I am getting to here is that this was submitted to the LEGO Ideas program, as I said. It received an enormous amount of supporters from around the globe. They managed to get to 10,000 supporters, the benchmark for official review. It was highlighted that, whilst Australia has some of the best weather, it also has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.
This is where the story could have ended. But, on 11 February, just a couple of weeks ago, the story reappeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. What was highlighted here was, again, the story of 2017. So, nearly five years ago Damien began writing his will, organising his funeral, but he had had this positive experience with his son Aiden designing this LEGO set. I quote from the Herald article:
… Mr MacRae was astonished to learn last week that Lego had released onto the market its own Beach Lifeguard Station, including many of the features that were previously unique to the MacRae designs. It even had a rock pool, though the marine inhabitants included a turtle instead of a starfish.
Unlike the MacRae design, nobody was wearing a hat or sunscreen.
Damien is quoted in this article:
"As soon as I saw it I thought, that's not an exact copy, but it's clearly influenced by what Aiden and I had done," …
"They call it a lifeguard station but everything in it is basically how we presented the office, with binoculars, computer, maps and they've replaced the sunscreen with a bottle."
I don't know if LEGO is aware, but, as the article states:
Mr MacRae is an intellectual property lawyer, so he knows that it is not illegal to steal an idea and that the set is sufficiently different to avoid a copyright claim.
Again, Mr MacRae is quoted:
"This is how you would do it to avoid copyright infringement. You just tweak it a little bit. But it's not a good look, ethically."
I couldn't agree more with Damien. I couldn't agree more with the sentiment that was behind his original project with Aiden. As I said, I moved the motion in the House of Representatives and it was supported in a bipartisan manner, which really gave heart to Damien and Aiden that this was something that was really positive coming out of the parliament. I also pointed out that the global LEGO boss, Niels Christiansen, decided on behalf of the company not to go ahead with selling the LEGO kit due to some design issues. So Damien and Aiden revised the design and resubmitted it just late last year. It was knocked back again. But, as I said, it's just been revealed that LEGO has released its own beach lifeguard station.
It appears that, whilst LEGO is denying it—I take this from media reports; it's not directly from LEGO—it has copied the surf rescue project design. My questions to the LEGO Group are: Is this ethical? Is this moral? Is it a good look for a company to, in all but definition, steal all but an idea from a then five-year-old and his cancer-stricken father?
I point out that LEGO's own website states—and I think I may even have quoted this in my motion five years ago—that the LEGO Group's key values include 'caring'. Is it an act of socially responsible caring to act in this way? I honestly don't think so. I think many other consumers would agree that it is quite unethical. I see that has been echoed by LEGO fans in Australia and around the world.
I note that LEGO has denied that it has copied the Surf Rescue design, but again I point out that ultimately this is about a person and his son who, at one of the most challenging times in his life, just wanted to help others. 'I didn't do this to make money. I just wanted to help others.' At that time, Damien MacRae was given three months to live, and he decided to spend that time with his son on something very practical to promote cancer advocacy and awareness of melanoma and the very real dangers to the millions of Australians exposed to this type of cancer. He recognised that, if you're old enough to play with Lego, you're old enough to learn about sun safety. I implore LEGO to do the right thing and to be good ethical citizens. As I said, Australia has one of the highest rates—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:26