Thursday, 24 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail
The budget at large had a number of objectives. First was to have an open and honest conversation with the Australian people about the state of public finances. We've inherited a trillion dollars worth of debt. The interest payments on that debt alone are one of the fastest growing areas of public expenditure, so it behoves us all to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to bring down the deficit and to ensure that we aren't adding to the already-huge budget deficit and debt deficit.
Second was to ensure that we set in train the process for implementing our election commitments, whether it's providing more affordable child care, resolving the mess in aged care or implementing our commitment to an independent commission against corruption, and that we had budget line items available for this. In fact, right across all of our portfolio areas, it's ensuring that we were able to provision for those commitments. In addition to that, it's ensuring that we could go through the budget line by line and remove wasteful or inefficient spending, and we've done that. Indeed, $22 billion worth of wasteful or unproductive spending was either returned to the budget bottom line or redirected to more productive and economic ends.
One of the things that we did find as we went through the line by line analysis—and this goes directly to some of the claims that have been made by the shadow Treasurer—was enormous black holes within the budget in just about every portfolio agency. Whether that was due to negligence, incompetence or dishonesty, portfolio by portfolio by portfolio, programs that are ongoing programs in any common sense of the word were unfunded. They were funded to the end of the calendar year, to the end of the financial year or, perhaps, to the end of the financial year after, but they were not properly provisioned for. Whether it was in the health portfolio, my own Treasury portfolio or in the Finance portfolio, right across the board, absolutely essential items of government expenditure were not provisioned for. So 85 per cent of the net spending due to government decisions in the October budget was due to dealing with those sorts of legacy issues and other unavoidable spending. Indeed, of the $9.8 billion in net spending, $8.3 billion of this was due to legacy issues that needed to be resolved or unavoidable spending.
What are some examples of that? Well, there was $4.2 billion in unavoidable spending, including $2.6 billion in COVID related spends and nearly $1.4 billion in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listings. When members opposite get up and criticise those necessary increases in spending, I'd like them to itemise which of those they want removed from the budget. Which drugs? Which Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listings do they want removed? Or is it food for aged-care centres that they want removed? Is it more spending for aged-care workers that they want removed? Is it the increase in the pension or the increase in support for persons on unemployment benefits, which are indexed to various inflation and wage cost indexes?
The majority of the increase in spending in the budget from what was published in May this year is due to these sorts of factors. So, as those opposite, with their bellicose howls, start to raise issues about the necessary spending that we've had to inherit, they might like to itemise which of the items across any portfolio, including the Finance portfolio, they would have us remove from the budget. Indeed, they might like to itemise which of these items, if they're successful in the next election, they'll remove. I'd like to know which drugs they want delisted. I'd like to know how much money they want to remove from the aged-care system and what the impact of that's going to be on food quality and aged-care standards in the aged-care system. Perhaps it's the Infrastructure portfolio they want to remove spending from—I don't know—
Opposition members interjecting—
but they seem to be making a lot of noise with a lot of the answers. These are difficult times, but it starts with the adults in the room having an honest conversation about the state of the budget.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
This is a landmark budget for Indigenous Australians. At the election, we said we would renew Australia's commitment to reconciliation and work in genuine partnership with First Nations for better practical outcomes. This budget honours those commitments. We are working to implement the Uluru statement in full. We will ask all Australians to support the recognition for our First Peoples in our Constitution by enshrining in the Constitution a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The referendum will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create practical, lasting change that improves lives and builds a better future for all Australians. Importantly, it will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a say on matters that affect them. We have committed $50.2 million to the AEC to prepare for this referendum. We are also investing $5.8 million to commence work on establishing an independent makarrata commission as part of the government's $27.7 million election commitment.
Quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can and should be better. That's why closing the gap is a top priority for the Albanese government. We are investing more than $300 million to improve access to culturally safe and responsible health services, including in the electorate of the member opposite. This response is a fundamental change to the delivery of First Nations health. It will grow the Aboriginal community controlled health services sector in urban, regional, rural and remote communities of Australia. We will build a dedicated birthing on country centre of excellence at Waminda in Nowra in New South Wales, and we will boost the First Nations health workforce by training 500 health workers. This training will be designed and implemented in genuine partnership with First Nations people.
Solid foundations are vital. That's why we are investing more than $164.3 million in 17 critical First Nations health infrastructure projects across the country. The projects will provide modern, high-quality health clinics in areas of large and growing First Nations populations. They will also build capacity to target chronic disease treatment and rehabilitation.
We know that getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into early education will benefit them for the rest of their lives. As part of the government's plan for cheaper child care, all Indigenous children will be able to access 36 hours of subsidised child care a fortnight from July 2023. This is a practical measure directed at closing the gap in an area where we are going backwards. It will make a difference to Indigenous children across the country.
More than 30 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, rates of incarceration are a national shame. The Albanese Labor government's First Nations Justice package will see a record $99 million invested in this issue. This includes $81.5 million to establish up to 30 community led justice reinvestment initiatives across Australia and an independent national justice reinvestment unit. This is the largest funding package in justice reinvestment ever committed by the Commonwealth. These are only a few of the measures we are funding to deliver a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In other portfolios, like the environment portfolio, we're investing in Aboriginal rangers and Aboriginal protected areas, as an example. I am very proud of this commitment, all based on the notion of self-determination.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of bill—by leave—taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill agreed to.
Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.