House debates

Monday, 22 May 2023

Private Members' Business

Albanese Government

10:26 am

Photo of Alison ByrnesAlison Byrnes (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that Sunday, 21 May 2023 marks 12 months since the election of the current Government;

(2) acknowledges that after a decade of mismanagement, chaos and neglect by the former Government, this Government is delivering on its election promises and continues to deliver and build on our plan for a better future;

(3) further acknowledges that this Government's second budget handed down during the last sitting week:

(a) provides responsible cost of living relief;

(b) creates more opportunities for Australians; and

(c) builds a more secure economy into the future; and

(4) further notes that this Government is delivering on our plan for a better future in the face of relentless negative opposition from the Liberal-National coalition.

Today I acknowledge the first anniversary of the election of the Albanese Labor government. We've spent the first 12 months of this government cleaning up the mess we inherited and working hard to deliver stronger foundations for a better future for all Australians. Twelve months ago Australia turned away from the coalition's mess and mismanagement and instead chose a government with a positive plan to grow the economy, create new jobs, boost renewable energy and invest in skills and training. It was also on this day that I was elected to represent my local community as the member for Cunningham. Every day since I have been proud to be a member of this Labor government, which governs for all Australians, not just its mates.

There is much more to do. Australia faces many challenges, and our government has been upfront in discussing those with the public. Meanwhile the government has used its first year to address many of these challenges by—and this is a very long list—reviving Medicare and making medicines cheaper; making child care more affordable; acting to reduce carbon emissions and make energy cheaper; driving the transformation to renewable power; funding 20,000 new university places, as well as 180,000 fee-free TAFE places; having a 15 per cent pay rise for workers in the aged-care sector; establishing the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to ensure that Australia is a country that makes things; taking the sting out of energy prices and ensuring bill relief of up to $500 for eligible families and $650 for small businesses; supporting an increase in the minimum wage; allocating over $16 billion in renewable energy infrastructure through Rewiring the Nation; investing $200 million in 400 community batteries across the country, including in Warrawong in my electorate; strengthening our international relationships; and restoring the federal budget. Each of those initiatives points to a better future for Australia, and all were needed after nearly 10 lost years of coalition government.

Our Illawarra community and economy will benefit from our government's initiatives. Of particular importance to me is the way in which the Illawarra will benefit from the Albanese government's determination to rebuild and grow Australia's manufacturing base. Alongside growing sectors of our local economy, such as services, education, tourism and renewables, our manufacturers have a strong future. That future is based on recognised strengths in steel, mining and heavy industry, combined with our deepwater port, great education and training facilities, skilled workers, and large and small businesses. All of these attributes are also feeding our thriving renewable energy industry, whether that be battery technology, green and cheap hydrogen production or planning for offshore wind. In the Illawarra we have firms like Sicona Battery Technologies, Green Gravity, EcoJoule and Hysata all working to make the Illawarra a renewable energy powerhouse. At the national level is Labor's $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, which will drive economic development in our regions and outer suburbs, boost our sovereign capability, diversify the economy and help create secure jobs.

During its first year, the Albanese government has invested in the Illawarra to ensure we have the right skills to support future sustainable local economic growth. The University of Wollongong has received funding for 936 new places to train more teachers, nurses and engineers, as well as $10 million for its Energy Futures Skills Centre. Wollongong TAFE has received $2.5 million for its Renewable Energy Training facility. We all know that renewable energy has a major role in our futures. That is why the federal government has invested in local hydrogen related projects, such as $9 million to support Hysata to develop new facilities to deliver low-cost hydrogen in Port Kembla, and $800,000 for an ATCO Australia feasibility study on hydrogen technologies and storage. And let's not forget the $1.6 billion energy savings plan for households and businesses to access energy upgrades to improve their energy use and save on costs, which includes specific support for social housing. In Cunningham we are lucky to have great Australians like Saul Griffith and his amazing Rewiring Australia team working on the ground in our community and with government to make electrification a reality regardless of income or postcode.

The election of the Albanese Labor government one year ago was a turning point for Australia, a turning point towards a positive community and a sustainable economic future.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

10:31 am

Photo of Garth HamiltonGarth Hamilton (Groom, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me no pleasure to rise in response to this motion, which I assume is part 2 of the previous statement from the government about how it's been a good 10 months. I remember that when that statement was made I asked, 'For who?' A good 12 months? I'll ask again, 'For who?' This is a great self-congratulatory motion moved by Labor for Labor on Labor.

But I don't think the people of Australia are going to be too keen to be listening in to this particular one about how great things are going. Certainly not in my patch, where we have great charities like Protea Place and Hope Horizons that, for the first time ever, have had to cancel fundraising functions because there's a lack of tickets able to be sold. There's just not enough money in the economy floating around. Places like Base Services, that do such a good job helping homeless people into jobs, have got the largest demand they've ever had, and at the same time they're getting the least community support because the economy isn't there to support them. We've seen recently that business insolvency across the nation has doubled across the last 12 months. It has not been a great 12 months.

This speech deserves some interrogation because it's not just self-congratulatory and it's not just tone deaf; it is misleading to talk about what the economy was that this government inherited. The lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. Welfare dependency at its lowest levels in 30 years. Tax rates for small businesses were at the lowest rate in 50 years. Eleven million Australians had reduced taxes across that term of government, in which two million new jobs were created. That's to put some facts on the table there.

Let's look at what we have here. 'Responsible cost-of-living relief' is the description for this budget. There is $185 billion of additional spending. No, you don't get to use the word 'responsible'. That's a stimulus budget; that's what that is. That's fuel on the fire; that's what that budget is. Cost-of-living relief? Not if you're a double income household trying to get ahead. A young couple buying a house, getting a mortgage and putting kids through school—this is not a good package for you.

Part (3)(b), that this budget creates more opportunities for Australia, is completely misleading. The budget confirms 175,000 Australians will lose their jobs. That's not opportunity. That is opportunity being stripped from Australians. Let's be really clear about what this budget does say and what this budget does for Australia. It reduces opportunities for Australians—175,000 jobs taken away.

Part (3)(c) states that this budget builds a more secure economy into the future. Goodness me! When we have seen the instant impact of price caps stripping away investment in the gas sector, at a time when we have an energy price crisis, the insecurity this brings to Australia's future energy supply cannot be described in enough detail. I do not have enough time left to go into this, but the price caps we've seen confirmed in this budget will have the same impact that price caps have had on every economy they've been imposed on. They will drive up prices. That is what they have always done and that is what they will always do.

The previous speaker talked about being upfront. Let's go through the broken promises we've seen for the last good 12 months. Cuts to your electricity bill by $275? No, that's broken. Cheaper mortgages? No, that's broken. There are no changes to super or lower inflation. There'll be no industry-wide bargaining: 'It's not part of our policy.' There are three promises, all broken. The promise that every aged-care home would have a nurse onsite at all times by July this year? No. These are broken promises.

The idea that this government has been upfront across the last 12 months—we saw recently a great example of what we have seen for the last 12 months. We've had a Treasurer caught out by the ABC—of all people—for deliberately misleading Australians on the size of the debt. You know it's bad when even the ABC don't trust Labor. That's a pretty bad state of affairs. You've lost your base there, guys. This is the government we have. As much as it troubles me to take away the glorious backslapping and self-congratulatory indulgence and that slight whiff of hubris about this motion, it has not been a great 12 months for the people of Australia. It has been a very difficult time.

We've been listening. We are out there, on the ground, listening to what Australians are saying. And they are not supportive of this sort of motion.

10:36 am

Photo of Tracey RobertsTracey Roberts (Pearce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One year ago, on 21 May 2022, I walked into the Quinns Rocks Sports Club with my husband, Peter, by my side to the rousing cheers of a large and enthusiastic crowd. The room was awash with red and with celebration. As I looked around, I saw many happy, familiar faces who had helped join the campaign to win the seat of Pearce in Western Australia. I had become the first Labor candidate to win the seat of Pearce since its creation in 1990. As I held my hands aloft I felt relieved, I felt excited and I felt a deep sense of pride that I was to become the federal member for Pearce and a member of the Albanese Labor government.

A large swing towards Labor carried across Western Australia in a sign that change was well overdue. The Western Australian and Australian community had voted and said, 'It's time for Labor to govern for the people again.' I recall the election night like it was yesterday, and as we mark one year in government I am proud to say that the Albanese Labor government has not wasted a day since being elected. We have spent the first 12 months working very hard to deliver stronger foundations for a better future for all Australians. Led by a prime minister of strength, integrity and heart, our government puts Australians first.

We have passed more than 80 bills, bills that provide real cost-of-living relief for Australian families, bills that shape a better future because that is what Australians deserve. We are strengthening Medicare and saving Australians time and money at the Australian pharmacy with the introduction of 60-day dispensing. We have made medicines and access to GPs and health care cheaper by tripling the bulk-billing incentive for GPs that will benefit millions of Australians. We have already made medicines cheaper under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. For the first time in 75 years the maximum cost of general scripts has gone down. The maximum general co-payment has been reduced from $42.50 to $30 since 1 January.

The federal budget 2023-24 is responsible, practical and carefully collaborated to alleviate inflationary pressures. Under the 2023 budget we are expanding access to financial support by raising the age cut-off for the parenting payment single from eight to 14 years. We have legislated cheaper child care that starts in July this year. We are getting wages moving again, with pay rises for millions of Australians. We are giving a record 15 per cent pay rise to aged-care workers across Australia and restoring dignity in aged care. We are supporting businesses by introducing a new instant asset write-off to support small businesses. Around 90,000 small businesses in Western Australia that meet the definition of an electricity small customer will receive quarterly bill relief of $640 automatically from 1 July 2023. We are investing $1.6 billion in Australian businesses and households, including social housing to empower them to take control of energy use. This will ensure homes and businesses are cheaper to run and more comfortable. We are protecting our precious environment and threatened species. The Albanese Labor government will legislate a national net zero authority to ensure the workers, industries and communities that have powered Australia for generations can seize the opportunities of Australia's net zero transformation.

Our 2023 budget helps restore Australia's economy from the mess we inherited from the coalition, who left us with a debt of $1 trillion under the Liberal National Party. Those opposite also left Australia with an economy defined by a decade of stagnant wages, flatlining productivity, weak business investment, skills shortages and energy policy chaos. In contrast, in a memorable and productive year, the Albanese Labor government has made robust progress, passing legislation that puts Australian families and the economy at the forefront of decision-making. We know there is much more to do. We have made a good start and we know that to deliver long-lasting positive change we have to continue our focus and our hard work, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.

10:41 am

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I do not agree with the premise that is being put to the parliament. I feel sorry for the children up in the public gallery because they're the ones who are ultimately going to pay for Labor's reckless debt and reckless policies. The member for Pearce mentioned $1 trillion worth of debt. Labor should stop misleading the House. The ABC fact checked this, and it is nowhere near $1 trillion worth of debt. So the Labor dirt unit should take that out of their talking points forthwith because it is actually misleading the parliament of Australia, and to continue to say it is an absolute lie. It is.

The member for Pearce asked what we did when we were in government. Well, during the pandemic, we saved potentially 60,000 lives with the policies and the actions that we took, and 1.1 million jobs were created at the same time. Indeed 700,000 jobs were saved through JobKeeper. Those opposite wanted to pay people to get a jab. The debt would have been even higher had those opposite been listened to. Since Labor came to office—and it has been 12 sorry months—power prices have increased. That is a fact. Interest rates have increased. That is a fact. Unemployment has increased. That is a fact. The cost of living has increased. That is a fact.

I'm glad that the minister for regional development is sitting opposite because she might try to explain, as the member for Cunningham, who moved this motion, ought to as well, to their regional electorates—or the periurban parts of their electorate, in the member for Cunningham's instance—why there is no new money in the budget for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, and why the Stronger Communities Program has just been stripped, taken away, removed from those hardworking volunteer organisations which look to that money, which relied on that money, which otherwise, in some instances, could not continue to operate but for the assistance under that very successful program which was first put in place after lobbying by the member for Parkes.

More than that, when you look at the Mobile Black Spot Program in New South Wales—those opposite go on about colour coded spreadsheets. I see the member for Eden-Monaro nodding. Well, Labor has colour coded spreadsheets too. The trouble is they're all red, for Labor, because under that recent program announcement, which was called, and was part of, the Mobile Black Spot Program funding, every single allocation, for every single mobile phone tower—you know what?—went to a Labor electorate. How is that fair? I know that, when the member for Eden-Monaro was elected—and good on her; I stood beside her at some press conferences before, indeed, she even ran as the member, when she was a mayor, and a good mayor, I will admit—and came into parliament, she absolutely complained about the funding that didn't go to her electorate, which was beset by fires. I acknowledge the fact that she worked hard for her community. But how can she and other members of the ALP justify every single Mobile Black Spot Program funding grant going to a Labor electorate? It's not fair. It's not right. It cannot be justified in any way, shape or form.

Then we talk about Mobile Black Spot Program funding being part of the national emergency plan, and it is. How is it that the National Emergency Management Agency staff have been cut from the regions? How is this so when, if you believe those opposite, the next disaster is just around the corner? We live in Australia, and that's probably right. Luckily, there haven't been any fires of the magnitude that happened during that Black Summer of bushfires. I appreciate that last year the floods were terrible and the Lismore situation was particularly disastrous. But then you get members opposite who take away funding from flood infrastructure—and by 'flood infrastructure' I mean increasing the Wyangala Dam wall just by 10 metres. Yes, it's a big ask, but what do we get from Labor? Well, we get, from the state water minister, 'Well, we're going to just make better escape routes for the people of Forbes.' How insulting! And there is no funding for dams or water infrastructure from those opposite.

10:47 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday marked one year of an Albanese Labor government. We promised the Australian people that after a wasted decade we wouldn't waste a single day, and we haven't. It's been a year of hard work, determination and dedication towards fulfilling the promises we made. Our focus has been on providing stability, confidence and security, delivering the positive, lasting change that Australians voted for. I'm proud of what we've achieved so far. We know there's still more to do, but we've laid solid foundations now to build a better future.

In the first 12 months, we've made essential services more affordable for every Australian by making child care and medicines cheaper, ensuring that families can access the support they need. Additionally, we have provided 180,000 fee-free TAFE places, empowering individuals with skills for a prosperous future. We've also delivered 20,000 new university places, including 967 at the University of Newcastle, rapidly expanding opportunities for students in higher education. Recognising the invaluable contributions of our aged-care workers, we have funded a well-deserved 15 per cent pay rise for them. Our commitment to combating family and domestic violence is evident through record investment in women's safety and the introduction of 10 days paid domestic violence leave, providing support for survivors to rebuild their lives. We have made substantial progress in advancing a Voice to Parliament, which will empower First Nations people, address injustices and create change that will deliver a better future. Foreign minister Penny Wong's extensive diplomatic efforts, visiting 32 countries including all Pacific Islands Forum members, demonstrate our commitment to restoring international relations. To ensure a transparent and accountable government, we have successfully delivered a National Anti-Corruption Commission, which will begin operations on 1 July. Additionally, we have implemented measures to promote fair wages and conditions, such as 'same job, same pay', minimum work standards for gig workers, and criminalising wage theft.

Our unwavering commitment to addressing climate change and fostering sustainable energy practices is reflected in $16 billion of investment in renewable energy infrastructure. We have passed the safeguard mechanism to reduce emissions from major emitters and initiated the New Energy Apprenticeships program, providing financial support for individuals pursuing careers in renewable energy.

We've also achieved a lot for our environment. We've committed to protecting 30 per cent of our land and 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030. We've legislated a path to net zero. We've approved double the number of renewable energy projects. We've set a target of zero for new extinctions. We're cleaning up and restoring our urban rivers and waterways. And we're doubling our funding to national parks. We've also started rewriting Australia's environmental laws with our Nature Positive Plan, including establishing an Australian Environment Protection Agency.

Recognising the importance of a strong manufacturing sector, we've established the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, supporting local industries and promoting a vibrant economy. We're also developing a new Australian Cyber Security Strategy to protect our nation from cyberthreats and secure our digital infrastructure.

In Newcastle, we've committed $100 million to a renewable energy precinct at the port of Newcastle and a further $82 million for green hydrogen. We're reopening the GP Access After Hours clinic at the Calvary Mater Hospital next week, and we have kept the Kaden Centre's doors open so they can continue their innovative exercise oncology program. High-speed rail is back on track. Funding is flowing to the University of Newcastle for a New Energy Skills Hub, and our local schools are finally getting the funding they need for important projects.

These accomplishments are testament to the Albanese Labor government's commitment to serving the Australian people and delivering the positive, lasting change the Australian people voted for. We're 12 months in. There is more to be done. But we are not taking this opportunity to build a better future for granted.

10:51 am

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In the last few weeks I've had a little bit more time to watch children's movies with my kids, like Finding Nemo, The Jungle Book 2, Lightyear, Puss in Boots and The Super MarioBros. Movie. My repertoire of children's movies is expanding fast. But in watching those films I've seen no greater fiction, no greater flight of fancy, than the motion from those opposite. In the Australian vernacular, they're simply dreaming.

Let me state for the record the unmistakable fact. One year ago, the coalition government left this country in good shape. Despite having faced the greatest financial challenge in almost a century, with the global pandemic, the greatest geopolitical shift since the end of the Cold War and global pressure on energy costs and supply chains, Australia was in a strong position to meet the challenges of this decade. At the end of the coalition government, we left our successors with a country more strong and more resilient than when we inherited it, with almost two million new jobs created, youth unemployment halved from 16 per cent to 8.3 per cent, taxes heading down and a legislated plan for tax cuts that will end the scourge of bracket creep.

We provided the lowest small business tax rates in 50 years; a $120 billion infrastructure pipeline; trade deals with the UK, India and ASEAN; record numbers of apprentices in training; a plan for net zero emissions by 2050 through technology, not taxes; record investments in Medicare, hospitals, schools and aged care; and 2,900 new and amended medicine listings on the PBS from 2013. We started the most significant rebuild of Australia's defences in our lifetime. We strengthened the agreements and partnerships needed to keep Australia strong, whether it was AUKUS, the Quad, Five Eyes or our partnership with ASEAN.

This motion claims the Albanese government is providing cost-of-living relief and a plan for the future. It's fiction. It's the same old Labor tactic: if you're failing, claim you're succeeding. If you're increasing taxes, claim you're providing cost-of-living support. If the public don't know what you're doing, just assert you have a plan. This is a budget without a plan—no plan to reduce expenditure, no plan for inflation, no plan for productivity. This is a budget built on bracket creep and sneakily taking more tax from Australians after they get their inflation recovery pay rise. This is a budget that will give a tax hike to 10 million Australians who earn under $126,000. It's a budget with a new tax on truckies, new franking credits and super taxes that hit retirees and pensioners. It's a budget that, based on its own estimates, increases unemployment by 175,000. It's a budget that is spending $185 billion more and fuelling Labor's inflation fire. It's a budget that ignores what's happening in communities around Australia.

When I chose to go to the back bench last month I went to railway stations, shopping strips and shopping centres and spoke to mums, dads and small-business owners. Our shops are being hit with electricity and gas price increases and declining trade. Consumers are being very cautious around discretionary expenditure. Butchers told me about increasing power bills and fewer customers buying less red meat and choosing less expensive cuts. Chemists told me that customers are getting their prescriptions and that's it. The homewares shop owner showed me her bank statement with $125 in it. She said she was only hanging on for Mother's Day. I went away from those shopping centres and community catch-ups realising there is one economic certainty this year, and that is that shops will close. Households are hurting, but it's small businesses and their employees that are suffering.

Through it all Labor has not kept its promises. Electricity bills are going up by $500 in this budget, despite the Prime Minister promising 97 times to cut power bills by $275. Labor promises power bills will be $1,200 a year in 2024-25. Based on forecasts in the budget, they'll now be higher—at $2,000. The Prime Minister said that, if you make a promise and commitment, you have to stick to it. He promised cheaper mortgages, lower inflation, no industrywide bargaining and no change to super—promises discarded by the Treasurer with a PhD in politics.

My greatest concern is that the government has no plan to tackle inflation. Inflation is a cancer to the economic health of families. Inflation hurts the purchasing power of singles, families and retirees. Inflation corrodes savings, particularly those saving for a house or retirement. It eats away at retirement savings. Inflation is the economic hamster wheel speeding up. More and more is required simply to keep up.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke of a new working poor. I don't want to see Australians heading down the American path where mums and dads work harder and harder in more jobs and longer hours and still don't get ahead, where homeownership slips more and more out of sight, and where families live in fear of big, unexpected rent increases.

This budget is a failure. It's a budget built on bracket creep and on the deficits and red ink of Australian families.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.