House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Ministerial Statements


11:07 am

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A sickening number of gendered violence incidents and deaths have been dominating our headlines in 2024. To stave off despair about this national scourge, I wanted to take a few minutes to look at the positive inclusions in this year's budget that are directed towards women. I do this with the acknowledgement that there is still a lot of work to do and that no one federal budget can resolve every social issue.

Since coming into office only two years ago, the Albanese Labor government has been focused on putting women and gender equality front and centre of Australia's economic plan. This government is determined to make women's lives safer, fairer and more equal. Labor leads by example, and I'm proud that the Labor Party in this 47th Parliament is 53 per cent women. As I'm sure you would attest, Deputy Speaker Andrews, you can't be what you can't see—that goes for young women. Can I say that you have personally been quite the inspiration to your community, Deputy Speaker.

It was a Labor government, under the late, great Bob Hawke, that first introduced the Women's Budget Statement—a world first. Our now-restored Women's Budget Statement speaks to the key aims and values of the Albanese Labor government. It focuses on education and employment, respect at work and equal pay, and measures to keep women and children safe.

To put this year's Women's Budget Statement in context, earlier this year Labor launched the first national strategy to achieve gender equality. Working for Women: A Strategy for Gender Equality is a 10-year plan with the vision of a nation where people are safe, treated with respect, have choices and have access to resources and equal outcomes no matter what their gender. The strategy has five priority areas for action: (1) gendered violence; (2) unpaid and paid care; (3) economic equality and security; (4) health; and (5) leadership. Our Labor budget focuses on these five key areas.

Recently in this chamber I spoke on gendered violence. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity a few weeks ago to listen to Jess Hill and Michael Salter talk about their work 'Rethinking primary prevention'. A key focus of their recommendations is on working to prevent gendered violence, including stopping perpetrators from reoffending. They are driving the conversation about regulation for industries such as alcohol, pornography and gambling, all of which are known to exacerbate gendered violence. Jess and Michael also talked about combating the effects of intergenerational trauma, child neglect and child abuse, for both potential perpetrators and potential victims.

Labor is investing $1.3 million over two years to undertake a rapid review of evidence based approaches to preventing gender based violence. The expert panel, including Jess Hill, will provide practical advice to government on further action, including a focus on high-risk perpetrators: those people who turn up in front of magistrates time after time after time—often, in a world of misery. Diverting them down a more sensible path earlier, before they reach that valley of tears, and worse, is a fine thing to attempt to do. The review's first report is due in the third quarter of this year. The budget also set aside $4.3 million for Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety to further investigate and establish the evidence base on both the drivers of and recovery from the perpetration of gendered violence.

Our approach to taking action on gendered violence is not just about research; it's about actual, tangible, on-the-ground support as well. We've directed over $925 million over five years to permanently establish the Leaving Violence Program. Eligible victims-survivors will be able to access up to $5,000 in financial support to help them leave, as well as receiving assistance with referral services.

Further financial help is available with the back-to-back boost to Commonwealth rent assistance, as well as the expanded eligibility for parenting payment single. We are also backing this up with further measures on social housing and homelessness. We've negotiated the $9.3 billion national agreement with the states and territories, and we're also directing a $1 billion increase in funding for crisis and transitional accommodation for women, children and youth.

Labor is also focused on improving the experience of women on university campuses across the country. We're developing a national higher education code to prevent and respond to gender based violence. This will require universities to strengthen their accountability. We're also establishing a national student ombudsman—an office to provide support for students for a range of complaints about their higher education provider, including those related to sexual harassment and violence.

I'd also note Labor's reform of paid parental leave to include superannuation. That kicks off on 1 July 2025. Taking time out to care for children is a normal part of working life for both parents. Paying super on paid parental leave will normalise parental leave as a workplace entitlement, encourage more equal sharing of care, show that our society values the carer role and ensure that more women can access a dignified retirement. Paying super on government paid parental leave is a key step in prioritising gender equality. It's a crucial investment to close the super gap, which affects women's retirement income significantly. This super gap currently sits at around 25 per cent.

This reform builds on Labor's historic investment in Australia's paid parental leave. We've already made it easier for both parents to access and share care, and our legislation means we'll have added an extra six weeks by 2026. Since Monday, families have had access to two extra weeks of leave. This will increase until the scheme reaches 26 weeks by July 2026.

This budget also focuses on the care economy and the paid care work that women—overwhelmingly women—do on top of their unpaid work. I'm talking about the aged-care workers and early-childhood educators, who will all be receiving wage increases to recognise the importance of their work. It's a sad reflection that these roles are often undervalued and underpaid. Since 1 July, we've taken some steps towards changing that.

We're working on changing the perception of both unpaid and paid care work. We're making the carer payment more flexible, so that recipients—mainly women—can do paid work, study or volunteering. We're further supporting eligible nursing, midwifery, teaching and social-work students—who are, predominantly, women—with a prac support payment. That's over $427 million to enable those students to undertake mandatory prac placements and bolster the number of people entering these in-demand professions. We made a further 400,000 places available in our fee-free TAFE scheme, with women making up 60 per cent of those enrolments. All these measures go toward improved economic equality and security for women. Monday's cost-of-living tax cuts provide greater relief for low- and middle-income taxpayers, a group—not surprisingly—disproportionately made up of women. All 6.5 million women taxpayers will receive that tax cut this year, with an average annual benefit of around $1,650. This will ease the pressure on household budgets, along with that $300 energy rebate for every household. Labor has also resolved the issue with indexation to help fees, wiping around $3 billion in debt and ensuring that future indexation to HELP is at the rate of the lower of either the consumer price index or the wage price index. This will directly benefit women, who hold the majority of HELP debts.

This budget includes more than $160 million directly targeted at women's health supports. We've added crucial breast cancer treatment medicines to the PBS and reduced the cost of the medicine from $97,000 per course to a maximum of only $31.60 per script. Labor is establishing endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics across Australia—clinics that will provide multidisciplinary care and enable more appropriate and more timely diagnosis and management. Endometriosis is a debilitating chronic condition that affects one in nine girls and women in Australia. These clinics will ensure improved pain management for sufferers. There is also funding to support high-quality maternity care, support for women who have suffered miscarriage, and free period products supplied by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

Finally, we have focused on setting women up for future jobs for a future made in Australia and more leadership opportunities. There is $38 million over eight years to bolster the STEM workforce. We are also launching the Building Women's Careers Program. We established the Working for Women Program to support the drive for gender equality. Part of this will have government boards that have 50 per cent representation of women and will make sure that half of the chairs and deputy chairs are women also. We are focusing on collecting data and improving things.

All Australians know there is still work to do on gender equality—the newspaper headlines tell us this every day. We are in the midst of a national crisis in gendered violence, but we will keep working at it.

11:17 am

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Budget number 3 from the Treasurer is very consistent—big on political spin, short on actually delivering for the community. It's almost like Doctor Chalmers' PhD was focused on politics and was focused on the former leader of the ALP Paul Keating, because that's what he is focused on—political spin. He spent his life working in this House as a staffer and as member for parliament. He talks about being in 18 budget lock-ups like it's something that is a great thing for the Australian people. But what it has done is it has allowed him to understand the mechanisms of the budget and how you can make things appear like they are doing one thing when they are actually not.

There is no greater example of this Treasurer's spin than the $300 energy bill rebate and his continual line that it will bring inflation down. There are two parts to this spin, but let's be really clear: in a cost-of-living, every dollar that the Australian people can get is needed. The first part of political spin from the Treasurer and those opposite and the Prime Minister is that they've said this week you'll get $300 from today. Well, you'll get $300 over 12 months—you'll get $75 a quarter. They could at least be a little bit honest about that. Anyone who has received their power bill recently will know that $75 a quarter is not covering much of that bill. I had many residents reach out to me about that.

The second part of the spin—and this is the much more important part in terms of the impact it will have on the Australian people, which he doesn't want to talk about it—is he talks about how it's going to bring inflation down. But it is not. What it is going to do—and even the RBA June board meeting notes say this—is it will temporarily reduce headline inflation. It will artificially and temporarily bring that inflation number down, but it's not actually going to treat the symptoms. It's actually not even treating the cause. There's a reason he wants to bring the headline inflation down. There is a reason he wants to do that, and it's pure politics. The headline inflation number is the one that many in the media report on and talk about. It is the two to three per cent band that everyone talks about the RBA aiming to get to. But it's actually not the key measure that the RBA use. They use many other factors, including the trimmed mean inflation, which is a much more realistic number. So this is what this Treasurer is trying to do as I stand here in July 2024—and let's review this in a few months time, at the end of the year. He is trying to temporarily and artificially bring the headline inflation down so the articles in the papers will say that it's within the band. Then those opposite—not the Treasurer himself, because he's smart enough to know that he can't verbal the RBA governor—will start to put pressure on the RBA governor to bring interest rates down. Then, when the RBA governor doesn't do that—because, as we saw last week, inflation has just picked up from 3.6 to four per cent—those opposite will start to blame the governor for interest rates not coming down. That is the cynical political ploy that this Treasurer and this Prime Minister are undertaking. Let's see how that goes.

Unfortunately for the Australian people, even that political ploy is unlikely to work, because, as we saw last week, inflation is ticking up because, as the RBA's internal notes say, the government are running an expansionary budget. They are running an expansionary government when inflation is above the target band, when they should be running a contractionary budget. The government's decisions are driving inflation higher. If we see an interest rate rise—as many are predicting for August or September—be under no illusion: that interest rate rise is because of the decisions and the economic mismanagement of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of this country. But all the Treasurer has got is the political spin of trying to get a temporary reduction in the headline inflation.

But it's not just at the national level that this budget lets down the Australian people. My electorate of Casey is 2½ thousand square kilometres, and we don't have an emergency department within our community. It's very hard to get access to a doctor. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister in question time talked about adding 29 new urgent care clinics in the next budget. He announced them in the budget. I've been working with my community. I've been campaigning to get an urgent care clinic into our community. We need a place where the community can go to get that support because, as I said, it is 2½ thousand square kilometres, and most of my community have to drive 30 or 40 minutes or even an hour to get to an emergency department. So I've been watching with interest.

We've been campaigning for this. We've written to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance. They're aware of the campaign. The finance minister referenced it in Senate estimates, so they're aware of it. We've now had the announcement of 29 urgent care clinics. Ten have been launched and slowly dripped out to get the media headlines. I've watched with interest where those locations are. Shock, horror—out of the 10 that have been announced since the budget, eight of the locations are within Labor electorates. Eighty per cent are within Labor electorates—shock, horror! Another one is an Independent seat that was a Labor seat, which they're looking to get back. And then there was one in a Liberal seat. It seems like there is a very strong political element to the allocation of those. That's 10 out of 29, so we're a third of the way through. You would think that something like health and access to emergency departments would be above politics. I'll continue to work with my community to run our campaign calling for an urgent care clinic in Casey. I thank those who have added their names to the petition, added their support to show how much this is needed. I'll watch with interest as more sites continue to roll out, and we'll see what happens with the political breakdown of those.

One of the reasons that my community needs an urgent care clinic is that it's harder and harder to get to a doctor. We don't have an emergency department, and it's harder and harder to get access to a GP. We only have seven bulk-billing clinics in the community. What this government doesn't like to talk about with bulk-billing rates is that, since they came to government, bulk-billing rates across the country, including in Casey, have actually declined. That's the awkward fact that they don't like to talk about. But we also know that there's an expectation that there will be a shortage of around 11,000 GPs by 2031. And there's more we need to do. I speak to and visit many of my GPs, and they're struggling to get new GPs to be able to fit in more patients. Many GPs are having to forego their lunch break just to try and see extra people that are calling up wanting to get a place.

That's why I'm really proud to be part of a coalition that committed to investing $400 million to provide junior doctors who train in general practice with incentive payments, assistance with leave entitlements and support for vocational training. This is an investment that will help close that gap and that will help get more young doctors to become GPs and to move, particularly, into regional, rural and peri-urban areas. In my community, it's quite a challenging situation, where they can't get access to their GPs.

In this budget, we also saw that the government were completely silent on productivity. Productivity is crucial to our economic growth as a country. Since those opposite came to power, productivity has dropped 5.2 per cent. The reality is that to bring inflation down and actually treat the cause, not the symptoms, you need to drive productivity growth, because that means employers can continue to pay their employees more, which is a good thing. But they offset that increased cost by greater output—greater productivity—which brings the unit cost of that good or that service down, which means people can get paid more and the businesses, particularly small and family businesses, can remain profitable, which is crucial when they invest their own capital.

The final price that consumers pay doesn't need to go up. But this government—this Treasurer and this Prime Minister—are silent on productivity because they can't treat the cause. It is political spin to try and show that they're making a difference, but the Australian people know they're not.

11:27 am

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to speak on the budget papers today because the budget that the Treasurer handed down very recently is a budget that supports people with cost-of-living pressures now and sets our country up for the future. It is a positive plan that is about investing now and in tomorrow. I am pleased that there is not only significant support that we are delivering through my Social Services portfolio but also, importantly, initiatives that support the people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide in the electorate of Kingston, which I represent.

Of course, there are many benefits that will flow, as a result of this budget, to my seat. We just heard the member for Casey speak so glowingly about the urgent care clinics, and I could not reinforce his comments enough. These are a successful initiative of this government. Just to highlight the success, in Morphett Vale the urgent care clinic has been visited by 6,014 people. Expanding this really successful program in this budget is going to deliver more help for people when they need it—it might be for a fracture or something that isn't as significant as to need acute emergency care. But, at the moment, as a result of the neglect by those opposite, we do not have an appropriately functioning primary care system. These urgent care clinics have been well developed.

This is on top of getting back to fixing Medicare, which the health minister has been doing—including in the last budget, where the bulk-billing incentive was tripled. It has not just been primary care that's been a focus of this government. It has also been about making medicines cheaper. This was fiercely opposed by those opposite, but, just to put it in perspective: residents in Kingston have already saved over $1.7 million. That is money that's in the pockets of my local residents. It is a measure that those opposite opposed. Of course, importantly, in this budget we have PBS medicines frozen for general patients for a year, and for concession card holders this has been frozen at $7.70 for five years. This is a significant saving and makes sure that some of that cost-of-living pressure is taken off when it comes to buying medicine.

In addition to this, we are seeing a big investment in TAFE. I have seen firsthand already what fee-free TAFE had done at Noarlunga, and I've spoken about that in this place many times before. It has allowed people that had never considered vocational education, or had thought getting it was out of reach, to take the leap. It has also revitalised the Noarlunga TAFE campus, a TAFE campus that had been mothballed, Fee-free TAFE has re-enlivened it. Now within this budget there is extra funding, with $88.8 million to provide additional fee-free TAFE places, allowing more people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide and indeed right around the country to get the benefit of fee-free TAFE.

Also we've seen in this budget new infrastructure spending and, importantly, an investment in local roads. When I am having my street corner meetings and shopping centre stalls, the condition of local roads often comes up. I'm really proud of being part of a government that is willing to partner with state and local governments to actually deliver projects—not just put out a press release, say you're going to fund something and then never back it up, because you don't have a partner in it. We're partnering with local councils and local government. In my local area, that will mean a significant investment of over $30 million.

Through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, in my electorate there are another 10,395 people who are now eligible, with that age range between 45 to 50. This is incredibly important and something that's really welcomed.

Finally, just in this area, I wanted to talk about the extension of Local Sporting Champions. This is a really important program and one I'm very proud to support.

In the time I have left: in the portfolio of social services we've taken a deliberate approach to support people with the cost of living. I would like to highlight, firstly, that we have committed to a further 10 per cent increase in the maximum rates of rent assistance. This is incredibly important and builds on our measures from the last budget. The benefit of this is not just directly for those people receiving it; it has actually worked, according to the ABS, to moderate rent across the spectrum. Of course, we want to see those rental rate increases moderated again, but this is a sensible matter. I would like to point out that, since our government was elected in May 2022, the maximum rates of Commonwealth rent assistance have increased by 42 per cent when combined with indexation and our base rate increases. That's a really important investment.

We've made changes to carers participation rules. These are really important for the 2.65 million unpaid carers, ensuring that if they want to work, study or volunteer they can do so more flexibly. We will be doing that by changing the 25-hour participation rule to allow for 100 hours over four weeks, as well as removing restrictions on studying and volunteering activities.

The partial capacity to work changes that are in front of the Senate ensure that the higher rate of JobSeeker is extended to those single recipients with a partial capacity to work under 15 hours, with a recognition that those people do face more barriers. Importantly, we have also chosen to freeze the social security deeming rates for a further 12 months to 30 June 2025. This means that over 870,000 current income support recipients, including 450,000 age pensioners, will be able to keep more of what they earn on their investments without affecting their pension.

On women's safety, we have made a significant investment in this budget, building on the investments we have made in previous budgets, particularly by establishing permanently the Leaving Violence Program. This program is incredibly important. Since becoming minister, I've been doing a lot of work to ensure that this program is fit for purpose. It is much more than just a financial support. That is a critical part of it, but it also is incredibly important for the casework, the referral work and also the risk assessment work done that is done in this program. I am so pleased that we will make this a permanent feature to support women leaving domestic violence circumstances.

In terms of disability, I am really pleased that, in this budget, we've announced that, from 1 July 2025, we will replace the current Disability Employment Services with a fit-for-purpose, specialised disability employment service. This really is an important program. It is important that people with a disability get the opportunity to participate in work and get the opportunities that many of us take for granted. We will ensure that our new program is inclusive but, importantly, is of high quality. When I became minister, I couldn't believe that the DES program did not measure clients' experience—the experience that people at the heart of the system had. So quality will be at the heart of our new system and will be critically important.

These are some of the areas we've been able to invest in through our responsible economic management, making sure that the priorities are focused on supporting people now and into the future but still delivering a budget surplus. That is so important when it comes to responsible economic management and putting downward pressure on inflation, and we will continue to act responsibly.

11:37 am

Photo of Kate ChaneyKate Chaney (Curtin, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My summary takeaway on the budget is that it's good to see a surplus this year but I'm concerned about the looming deficits and their possible impact on inflation. We do need to do more about long-term issues like tax reform and productivity. The budget does contain some long-term thinking in the Future Made in Australia package, which is being introduced this week, but the devil will be in how it's implemented. I want to say a bit about cost-of-living relief; a long-term perspective on the budget, including tax reform productivity and climate; and how the budget is addressing a range of specific issues raised by my constituents.

On cost of living, there is no doubt that this budget comes at a difficult time. Every time I'm out in my electorate, I hear about the cost-of-living challenges people are facing. Managing inflation is the best way to reduce cost-of-living pressures, and the government's fiscal policy is one of many levers that affect inflation—but it's one that the government can actually control. In this budget, the government has tried to walk the fine line of providing cost-of-living relief without injecting more money into the economy and making inflation worse. Is it working? Recent inflation figures do create some additional concerns, but we won't really get a clear picture until we see the June quarter, and we won't see the full impact of the stage 3 tax cuts until the next quarter. Based on consumer confidence, which is a bit lower, it may be that people will slow their spending and the stage 3 tax cuts reshape may not have an additional upward pressure on inflation. It remains to be seen.

The $300 energy rebate may technically reduce the measure of inflation, but it does seem like a blunt instrument, given that it's not means tested. We've seen no increase in the base rate of JobSeeker. We have seen a small increase in Commonwealth rent assistance and some tweaks to JobSeeker for people with reduced capacity to work.

This budget includes the previously announced changes to stage 3 tax cuts which came into effect this week, HECS indexation and paid placement for students, and a freeze on medicine copayments for everyone with a Medicare card. For many in my electorate, these measures will be welcome. Time will tell what impact this will have on inflation, and the government will no doubt bear responsibility for whatever happens to interest rates, despite the independence of the RBA and the other factors at play.

The biggest cost-of-living issue raised with me in my electorate, and reiterated by a recent survey in my electorate, is housing. The budget contains new housing investment of $6.2 billion and a further $1 billion to help states and territories with infrastructure, as well as a 10 per cent increase in Commonwealth rent assistance and additional concessional loans for community housing providers and other charities to support the delivery of new homes. I often hear that people can't find a builder. This budget promises 20,000 additional fee-free TAFE places for construction-related courses and $1.8 million to streamline skills assessment for about 1,900 migrants from comparable countries who want to work in Australia's housing construction industry. Will this be enough on housing? Probably not, but I hope it helps. The reality is that it has taken us 20 years to get into our current crisis situation on housing, and it's unlikely to be fixed in one budget. Housing will be a significant election issue, and it would be good to see longer-term policy approaches from both sides that are bolder than setting aspirational targets and throwing more fuel on the fire by adding superannuation to be spending pool. We need a clear vision on how affordable housing should actually be, and then our policies can be pulling in the same direction to get there.

Taking a long-term view, I see one plus and two minuses in the budget. The Future Made in Australia package can be a kickstart to encourage investment and modernised net zero economy. What I like about this is it addresses climate in a proactive way, recognising that the world is changing and we want to be part of that change the world. Too often, the conversation about climate is about what we have to lose, how much it will cost to adapt and how terrible everything is. While we need this as context to actually drive the change, this budget shows that the conversation has matured. We're looking at the incredible opportunities available for Australia—and, in particular, Western Australia—if we can actually get this transition right. We currently rank between Namibia and Uganda on economic complexity, with our largely dig-and-ship economy. We need to invest in adding value to our resources, which would make us more resilient while building on the comparative advantages we have.

This Future Made in Australia package sounds promising, and is a response to calls from me and others for an Australian answer to the US Inflation Reduction Act. Its success will depend on how it is implemented, how investment decisions are made, how quickly, and whether it supports the right industries that can ultimately stand on their own feet. Funding production tax incentives for critical minerals is good for Western Australia as we try to encourage investment to add value and green energy to our abundance of mineral deposits. I have advocated for this approach. This way, we are spending taxpayer funds only if something is actually produced in strategically targeted areas where a leg-up is needed in the transition phase. We've heard about some investments already, and, to be frank, it's very hard to assess whether these are good investments based on the minimal information provided. Going forward, I'll be advocating for transparency on how investment decisions are made under the Future Made in Australia package—both those already made and those still to come—so that taxpayer money is being used to set us up for future success, not to fund pet projects.

One of the things missing in this budget is significant tax reform. We have the stage 3 tax cuts, which are much-needed cost-of-living relief, but they're not real tax reform. We need to ensure that we're not spending we don't have in the budget. This year's surplus masks an underlying structural deficit, and is expected to be followed by two deficit budgets. Gross debt will peak at 33.9 per cent of GDP by the middle of next year. This is a real concern and raises the issue of intergenerational equity. Over the long term, we want to be able to afford services like child care, aged care and the NDIS, but we still rely too heavily on taxing effort via income with our ageing population. Income tax makes up half of all of our tax, which is one of the highest proportions in the world. We have an increasing burden on a declining proportion of the population. People across the whole political spectrum are calling for tax reform: simplification and rebalancing between personal tax, corporate tax and consumption tax; economic rents from natural resources; and taxes to address social, environmental or economic costs. We need to think about the balance between old and young Australians and make good on the intergenerational bargain to support people at the vulnerable beginning and end of life in exchange for the promise that things will keep getting better.

I recognise that significant reform is politically hard. The political focus on winning elections and short-term handouts wins more votes than long-term structural changes. One of our key long-term problems is that we are no longer a high-growth or high-productivity country. Economic growth enables us to provide the services the community expects and demands. Forecast growth is softening considerably both globally and in Australia, where the growth forecasts have now been downgraded. Growth is driven by productivity, creating more value from less. This budget does not seem to have significant productivity reforms. I would have liked to see red tape reduction or IR simplification to make it easier to do business in Australia. Our industrial relations system is one of the most complex in the world, and we should be able to protect workers' rights without the endless complexity we've created. Addressing productivity will require thinking about how to make it easier to employ people, not harder.

The biggest long-term challenge we face is obviously climate change. While there are some positives in this budget on climate, including the funding of the Net Zero Economy Authority, Powering the Regions and Future Made in Australia, there are some big gaps. We're still sending mixed messages about our commitment to decarbonise, with the recent commitment to expand and extend the gas industry well into the second half of the century. We're also continuing to pay fossil fuel subsidies and take an embarrassingly low tax revenue from fossil fuel companies. There's funding allocated for the regulation of carbon capture and storage. Now, CCS is a necessary development given that every future energy plan contains some gas, but it's not been very successful in the past, and I don't think taxpayers should be funding it. Let the companies that rely on it for their expansion prove that it works.

There are a range of constituent issues that have been raised that are addressed in this budget, including students—it's good to see the change to HELP and HECS—aged care and child care. It's good to see additional home-care packages, some NDIS reform and additional resources for Services Australia. We've seen some additional allocation for mental health services, which is important too. On balance, this budget has something in it for a lot of Australians. But, other than the outline of the Future Made in Australia package, there's little of the long-term reform we will need to see if we want to be a prosperous and fair country in a generation's time.

11:47 am

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This budget is about easing cost-of-living pressures, and there is a massive amount of support in this budget. Every taxpayer in my electorate, and 13.6 million people around the country, is getting a tax cut. Every household is getting energy bill relief, the 2.6 million workers on award wages are getting a pay rise, and there are now cheaper medicines and an extra two weeks of paid parental leave.

Specifically, the budget is also about building more homes for Australia, and there's a $32 billion package here. This government has been undertaking the task of building more homes for Australians—social and affordable housing or other sorts of assistance. It's investing in our Future Made in Australia with a commitment of $22.7 billion. We are strengthening Medicare and the care economy with an extra $2.8 billion in the budget. We're broadening opportunities and advancing equality in the budget as well.

I do recall those 'debt bombshell' trucks travelling around the country before the 2013 election, with photos of the then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, sitting in front of them. Then of course we had Tony Abbott, the then Leader of the Opposition after him, because they swapped leaders as much as we did—or more, actually. In terms of the budget papers, there was $189 billion in debt when we left office in 2013. It was forecast to be $1.3 trillion in debt when those opposite left. It got as high as $1 trillion. You're talking about a situation with a forecast of 55 per cent of GDP. The hypocrisy of debt being seven times bigger under the coalition than under us is simply rank and rife, to be honest with you. We get lectures about debt and deficit from those opposite, when the deficit from the previous budget of the coalition government before they lost office, of $78 billion, has been turned into tens of billions of dollars of surplus under Labor.

We are seeing a moderation of CPI. We know people are doing it tough, but the inflation rate is now half of what it was at the peak under the coalition. It was at 6.1 per cent when they lost office. That was the situation under those opposite. They couldn't bank a saving, year after year. I recall the opposition Treasury spokesperson, Joe Hockey, saying that they would deliver a surplus in their first year and every year thereafter. They handed down a budget in 2014 that led to the decline and dismissal by the coalition caucus of the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. To get lectures from those opposite is a bit hypocritical.

We are providing an enormous amount of cost-of-living relief in this budget. In my electorate 80,000 people get a tax cut. Ninety per cent of taxpayers are better off under us than they would have been under the Morrison government. If you're earning up to $45,000 a year, you would have had no tax relief under the Coalition, but under us there's tax relief, and it's in the budget. Some local families will see an entire month of mortgage repayments wiped away by this budget. Some will be able to pay off their homes faster thanks to the tax cuts.

We're also providing $300 in energy bill relief for every household in Blair, and $325 for small businesses. It comes on top of the thousand dollars delivered by the Queensland government's energy rebate, which means a household in Blair can get up to $1,300 in total off their electricity bills.

I mentioned before the 2.6 million Australians benefiting from a rise in the minimum wage. This is the third consecutive pay rise for those low-paid workers. Many of them were heroes in the pandemic. Aged-care workers and retail workers did it tough. Many of them got abused. They had really difficult shift work. Those opposite couldn't see themselves at all fit to support a pay rise at any stage during nine years of long Coalition rule. A combination, for example, of Labor's tax cuts and wage rises means that many workers in my electorate will be $50 a week better off. They will earn more and keep more of what they earn through the entire year. That's really important.

From 1 July we have frozen the cost of PBS medicines for everyone. That makes an enormous difference for people. I recall those opposite saying pharmacists were going to reel when we spread out the scripts from 30 days to 60 days. All of a sudden there were pharmacies that were going to collapse. I dealt with the over 30 pharmacies in my electorate. I haven't seen one pharmacy close; not one. None of the pharmacists have told me they had to put off staff. What we're doing is providing additional support to strengthen Medicare and provide additional support for cheaper medicines. Pensioners and concession card holders in my electorate won't pay more than $7.70 for their PBS medications for five years thanks to the Albanese government's commitment to cheaper medicines. Residents in my electorate have already saved over $2 million thanks to the Albanese government's commitment to delivering cheaper medicines. Everyone in Blair who accesses PBS medicines is set to save even more thanks to our freeze on the maximum cost of the PBS. We're investing $4 billion to help deliver cheaper medicines to ease the cost pressures on household budgets. We've also added more medicines on the PBS.

We've invested $2.8 billion to strengthen Medicare by providing additional Medicare urgent care clinics. The urgent care clinic in Ipswich is a big success. There have been about 6,000 visits to that clinic since it was opened. It works in conjunction with the satellite hospital delivered by Queensland Health at Ripley, as well as the emergency department at Ipswich Hospital. That's really important. We're expanding Medicare coverage in the budget to four MRI machines in Blair, expanding affordable access to imaging services in my electorate. That's very important.

One of the biggest sources of assistance in this budget is the $3 billion in student HELP debt relief that we are providing, which I think is really important. I've got both the University of Southern Queensland Springfield campus and the University of Southern Queensland Ipswich campus in my electorate, so this helps 23,000 people in my electorate with a HELP debt. We've increased the maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance by 10 per cent, and that builds on the 15 per cent of the previous budget. That helps more than 12,000 households in Blair. That, combined with the other changes we've made, makes a huge difference to people on low incomes who are battling. The additional two weeks of paid parental leave brings the entitlement to 22 weeks a year. We're providing more funding for more homes in my electorate, boosting house supply and affordability. You can see that in suburbs like Ripley and Springfield and other suburbs in my electorate. We're providing a lot of assistance in this space.

One of the big changes that we've made that helps a lot of people is reforming the disability sector. I had Bill Shorten in my electorate, the Minister for Government Services. He's got responsibility for reforming the NDIS, and that's really critical. Those foundational supports were taken away by state and territory governments, and we, in partnership with the states and territories, are bringing those foundational supports. Not everyone qualifies for the NDIS. Not everyone does. But we're providing additional support, and in the budget we provided an extra $468.7 million to support people with disability and get the NDIS back on track.

As of 31 December 2023, there were a total of 646,449 participants in the NDIS. There are many, many thousands in my electorate. It is absolutely crucial. And I know that my electorate has a lot of people living with disability because, historically, it's been an area where we had, for example, the Challinor Centre, based on the campus of the University of Southern Queensland. People living in institutions were then brought into the community, and that was a good thing. It was a humane and decent thing to do. We've also got a large number of people living with disability who have access to the NDIS, and it's a great reform.

I commend the member for Maribyrnong, the minister for government service delivery, for the work he's doing in reforming the NDIS. It's a big, critical part of the budget. I know that the growth in it had to be tempered and that it's a reform of the process. There are too many fraudsters and crooks associated with the NDIS. We want people to get the care they deserve and need, and the financial support that is provided in the NDIS is critical for that space. But we need to make sure that this particular system is viable and will continue, and that's why the budget is so important for my electorate, particularly for people living with disability.

11:57 am

Simon Kennedy (Cook, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to talk about healthcare funding in this budget, particularly around MRI machines. Sutherland Hospital, my local hospital, has campaigned for years for an MRI machine. This MRI machine finally arrived in 2023, but it could not be used for outpatients. I learnt about this during the recent Cook by-election. I had a resident come up to me and tell me that she was forced to choose between a six-month wait time at Kogarah hospital and being out of pocket by $700 to $800 to go private. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, we're forcing people to choose between waiting for six months to get an MRI or paying $800.

I picked up this issue and campaigned hard for it as part of the Cook by-election. Murray Trembath covered this in the local paper, theSt George and Sutherland Shire Leader. We started a petition, which hundreds of people have signed. I've personally raised this with Health Minister Butler and his office. And I have to give credit where credit is due—Minister Butler has listened. Labor has announced $70 million for MRI machine funding, and I'm told that Sutherland Shire will now get an MRI machine licence for outpatients in 2027.

While this is welcome news, and while I commend Minister Butler for listening to me during my campaign in the Cook by-election and for listening to the residents of Cook, 2027 is still too late. I'm told that the Sutherland Hospital is the only public hospital in metropolitan Australia that does not have an MRI machine funded for outpatients. Thank you for listening, Mr Butler, but we now need to bring this forward. The residents of Cook cannot wait another three years to be forced to choose between six-month wait times and $700 to $800 for an MRI. I'm asking Minister Butler, in addition to what you have already done—it's fantastic; thank you very much for funding this important initiative—to now please bring this forward for Sutherland Hospital and get the residents of Cook and the surrounding areas access to MRIs sooner and more cheaply.

Another issue facing my community that was not addressed in this budget was funding for the compliance of e-bikes. Unsafe and inappropriate e-bike use is a major concern in my electorate and my community. This was one of the most raised issues in the recent Cook by-election, and it's something I've listened to the community about and I've acted on. Hundreds of residents have been in touch with me—they signed up to the petition. I had over 15 local residents attend a local community forum last week. We had Peter Bourke address these local constituents on current regulations. We had Sutherland Sire Council officials and the chamber of commerce. It was a very positive discussion indeed.

Yes, it was raised that we could have better import regulations from the federal government, and I'll be writing to Minister King about this. Yes, we can have more regulations at a state level and local level, but my main takeaway was that 90 per cent of the concerns of my local residents can be addressed today by enforcing local regulations. I'm pleased to announce that, coming out of that forum, we already have progress. Council officials have committed to putting up more signs. They have also committed to putting more bike racks at the start and end of the mall so people can park their e-bikes.

But we need more. We need police patrolling the area, we need police stopping kids riding illegal modified e-bikes and we need strict adherence to import rules. I am briefing Mark Speakman, the opposition leader in the state, on this. He has called for an upper house inquiry, which I will also be making a submission to as the member for Cook. I'm also briefing the new local police commander on this issue.

But there's also a need for federal government action. In 2021, the federal government changed the definition of an e-bike and removed the requirement for an import permit. I will be raising with Minister King the need to relook at these permits to make sure that the bikes we get in this country are safe and keep residents safe in my community. Only a few months ago a three-year-old boy had his leg broken clean in half, so it's about time we funded this important issue in the budget and we listened to the residents of the Sutherland shire and Cook.

More broadly, it's time to look at this budget and see what it tells us about the Anthony Albanese government. In this budget we see what Anthony Albanese believes will solve the cost-of-living crisis. What does Anthony Albanese believe will solve this cost-of-living crisis? More government. Across the last three budgets, Labor has committed an additional $315 billion in inflationary spending. This accounts for almost $30,000 per household in Australia.

This government clearly thinks the answer to this cost-of-living crisis is more government. What is their answer to higher energy costs? A $300 subsidy. What is their answer to higher childcare costs? More subsidies. What is their answer to low first-home ownership? Asking the government to take equity in people's homes. In the Liberal Party we are a little bit different. We believe in different answers. While Labor believes the answer to higher energy costs is, yes, a $300 subsidy, the Liberals believe the answer is actually lower energy prices.

Labor believes the answer to higher childcare costs is higher childcare subsidies. In the Liberal Party we believe the answer is actually lower childcare prices. In the Labor Party they believe the answer to low first-home ownership is the government buying equity in your house. In the Liberal Party we believe it is lower home prices. How do we get lower energy prices? Well, we need more supply of clean, cheap and reliable energy—not the closure of plants and certainly not the writing off of an entire technology without first investigating it. We should be looking at supply from all sources, including nuclear. How do we get lower childcare prices? More childcare centres. Let's look at the regulations and let's look at what's needed to get more childcare centres.

How do we get more first home buyers? We need more houses, a greater supply of housing. Instead, Labor believes in giving out subsidy after subsidy. What is the Labor government going to do when the money runs out? The truth is that many of these subsidies only last for a year.

After the sugar hit of $300—$75 a quarter—to pay new energy prices runs out, what are Australians to do with these rising energy prices? This isn't just a one-off subsidy. Yes, it will lower prices, but unfortunately it will try and trick the Australian public into thinking that inflation is moderating. Well, it's not. We've seen inflation go up consistently this year. We are now at 4.4 per cent core inflation, while the US, the UK, the euro region, Sweden and Canada are all seeing moderate inflation. It's lower than it is in Australia, and it's going down. In Australia it's going up.

I'd like the Albanese government to explain why Australia is different. What makes Australia so special that inflation here is going up, while everywhere else in the world it's going down? I can tell you what it is. It's this expansionary Labor government. You don't increase government spending by $315 billion without any consequences. You don't increase government spending by $30,000 per household without any consequences. The Australian people are just about to learn what these consequences are. These consequences are increasing inflation, higher interest rates for longer, higher mortgage repayments for longer and electricity and gas going up over 20 per cent year on year.

When electricity and gas are going up 20 per cent year on year, what does that mean? It means that the average Australian household will see their energy prices double every three years. As you're sitting at home there, looking at that one-off $300 subsidy, think about what that is going to do for you in three years time when your energy prices double. What is that going to do to you in six years time when your energy prices have doubled twice? In the Liberal Party, we believe in increasing supply. We believe in looking at all sources of energy, including nuclear, to make sure we have the broadest and most robust supply of clean, reliable energy.

The government have locked in bad workplace laws that are also driving up the cost of doing business. Families are now being slugged with higher tax, and Australian household industry, small-business industry, is breaking.

12:07 pm

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

I rise to speak on the 2024-25 Albanese Labor budget. The member for Cook can be forgiven because, to be fair, he wasn't here to get one of the notorious 'Back in black' mugs and he wasn't here for the 22 failed policies on energy of the previous Morrison, Turnbull and Abbott governments.

At a time when governments are doing everything they can to fight inflation, we are also walking a fine line to deliver real cost-of-living relief that doesn't add to the very inflation we are trying to tame. In the face of these challenges, the Albanese government is rising to the task, delivering consecutive surpluses and paying down debt, while also giving every Australian a tax cut. It is a budget that is unapologetically about both fairness and responsibility.

Under Labor, low-paid workers are seeing real wage growth, with record increases delivered for award wage workers in 2022, 2023 and now also 2024, with full-time workers on the national minimum wage earning $110 more a week than when the government came to office. This is important for care workers, retail workers and hospitality workers, not just across Bean but across Australia.

It's not just wages increasing; workers across the country are now keeping more of what they earn. This includes 82,000 taxpayers in Bean—every single taxpayer—who will receive a tax cut. The average tax cut for taxpayers in my electorate will be over $1,800. Under this government's plan, an additional 2.9 million Australians earning $45,000 or less, who were previously excluded under Scott Morrison's plan, are now sharing in the benefits of these tax cuts—fair and responsible. Additionally, from this week, more than 10 million households across Australia will receive a total rebate of $300 and eligible small businesses will receive $325 on their electricity bills throughout the year. As I said, just this week, the minimum wage increased to $24.10. This 3.75 per cent increase, combined with Labor's tax cuts, means that a retail worker in Bean is now bringing in at least an extra $110 per week.

Our 2024-25 budget is about easing the cost of living, a second surplus, a future made in Australia, more homes for Australia, the care economy and broadening opportunity. The government is investing an additional $477 million in the 2024-25 budget to increase our support to the more than 340,000 veterans and dependents accessing services through the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Thanks to these investments from the Albanese Labor government, funding for the Department of Veterans' Affairs remains at a record high, now better funded than it's been in three decades. For Bean, that's some 6,870 veterans who will benefit from this commitment. The 2024-25 budget delivers funding to implement and deliver the Albanese government's simplified and harmonised veterans compensation legislation. Following the successful implementation of 500 additional frontline staff at DVA to reduce the veterans compensation claims backlog, we're investing further with $186 million towards the employment of additional 141 staff to ensure backlogs don't re-emerge and to make claims processing faster.

It's not just our veterans in Bean that will be better off. This budget also delivers targeted support for pensioners and income support recipients. Pensioners and concession card holders in Bean won't pay more than $7.70 for their PBS medications for the next five years thanks to the Albanese government's commitment to delivering cheaper medicines. Targeted support will come in the form of a 10 per cent increase to maximum rates of Commonwealth rent assistance, which will directly benefit over 2,000 households in Bean and nearly one million households across the country. This builds on the 15 per cent increase from September last year and will increase maximum rates to 40 per cent higher than in May 2022.

This budget also continues to freeze social security deeming rates for a further 12 months. In Bean this will support nearly 6,000 support recipients, including pensioners, jobseekers and recipients of the parenting payment, student payments or carer payments. Building on this, more than 900 participants in Bean will benefit from increased funding for a new specialised disability employment program that prepares people living with disability to find suitable employment. By investing $2.8 billion in Services Australia, the Albanese government will also make it easier for Australians to access these government services to which they're entitled.

I think of the dedicated public servants who will benefit from the proper resourcing that only a Labor government can deliver by returning human oversight to government services. This government is committed to strengthening Services Australia's services by investing, of that $2.8 billion, $1.8 billion in staff, including funding for 4,030 staff in 2024-25 and 3,530 staff in 2025-26 along with continued investment in 850 emergency response staff. This will help the claim processing times and call wait times and will support those impacted by an emergency, crisis or vulnerability.

It is a matter of immense pride that my electorate of Bean headquarters Services Australia. Whilst all of us know our service centres and have good relationships with those service centres, for me it's a real element of pride to be able to represent those employees right across the programs and systems of Services Australia and to ensure that they get the support they deserve.

Housing remains a priority for Australians of all generations, backgrounds and stages of life. This budget outlines Labor's plan to fix the structural issues that our housing market faces, because we on this side believe that every Australian deserves to be a homeowner. The budget includes more than $6 billion in new measures to build more homes and support Australians, bringing this government's new housing initiatives over the next decade to more than $30 billion. We're building more social and affordable rental housing, with a $2.5 billion increase in the liability cap of Housing Australia and an additional $3 billion in loans to Housing Australia to support ongoing delivery of the program, as well as unlocking up to a billion dollars for more homes through the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, to be directed towards housing that supports women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and supports young Australians.

This Albanese Labor government has worked hard to improve the quality of life of and to restore dignity for older Australians. We've put nurses back into nursing homes, given residents more time with their carers, lifted wages in the sector and improved transparency and accountability. This budget continues this work. Since the October 2022-23 budget, total investment in aged care has increased by 30 per cent. This includes more than $11 billion to deliver the largest one-off increase to aged-care wages in history, with more increases in future.

This budget has also laid out the government's plan for manufacturing in Australia. The $22.7 billion plan for a future made in Australia will help make us an indispensable part of the global economy, helping us to attract investment, making our country a renewable energy superpower, value-adding to our resources and increasing economic security; backing Australian ideas, innovation and science; and investing in our people and places. These policies complement the government's broader growth agenda, including our competition reforms, our investments in infrastructure, housing, human capital and defence industries, and our support for small businesses.

In addition to our Future Made in Australia plan, the Albanese government is investing $350 million over four years to deliver fee-free uni-ready courses, to prepare students for university. We're also establishing Commonwealth prac payments for students undertaking mandatory prac placements. From 1 July 2025, the payments will provide more than 73,000 eligible students—including student teachers, nurses, midwives and social workers—with over $319 per week during their placements. This is critical in addressing the shortages in these fields.

None of this work would have been possible without taking a much more responsible, restrained and disciplined approach to the budget than those opposite took. This is a budget for all Australians. I commend my good friend the Treasurer for his work in balancing the books while responsibly delivering real support for Australian households, and not needing a series of mugs to justify it.

12:17 pm

Photo of Dai LeDai Le (Fowler, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

We heard, before, the member for Cook sharing the story that the Sutherland hospital in his electorate doesn't have an MRI. Well, it's not only the Sutherland Shire's hospital that doesn't have an MRI machine; Fairfield Hospital in my electorate of Fowler doesn't have an MRI machine either. Not only that, but the hospital has a hand clinic which services people from across the region and yet is operating out of a demountable. So, in terms of the health needs of our area, there's so much that needs real investment from the federal and state governments.

It's been almost two months since the 2024-25 budget was released. The Future Made in Australia plan was the centrepiece—except I saw less of a future for my constituents in Fowler and Western Sydney. We ticked over to the new financial year on 1 July 2024, and I know that the government has paraded their budget achievements—such as the tax cuts and the one-off energy relief rebate of $300 for every household and $325 for small businesses. This may sound like a good deal for Australians and small businesses, but is it really—especially for my constituents in Fowler?

This week, I asked the Prime Minister in the chamber whether he could guarantee that struggling families in Western Sydney wouldn't go backwards with their cost of living from 1 July, following these grand announcements from the budget. In a roundabout way, there was no guarantee from the Prime Minister and the government. I get that the tax cuts would provide some relief to my constituents; however, a one-off $300 payment provides minimal support in the face of the four per cent rise in CPI and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Household expenditures and prices remain volatile amidst inflation. Costs for food, energy and other household needs have jumped.

And, honestly, the people of Fowler would feel the pressure the most. Our median personal weekly income is $521 and median family weekly income is $1,529. The median weekly rent is about $370. An individual within Fowler on the median wage would be left with about $151. They would need to pay for their groceries, food, the cost of community work and the needs of their children. I don't need to do the maths to know that they're spreading their money thin to survive in this economy. And that's not to mention the high petrol prices. I have continually called on the government to do something about this issue, to provide some kind of short-term relief for families who use cars to drive long distances to work.

I held a 'bring your bill' day earlier this year. Over 100 constituents came to our event. They were struggling to pay their bills. Most shared that they were unable to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis. I had constituents bring their children to the event, asking if we were offering free meal services or relief. This is heartbreaking. As a parent, your duty is to be able to give your children the most basic need for their upbringing: food. Yet this is becoming a challenge, especially in Western Sydney. Even after the 'bring your bill' day event, we had an influx of constituents contacting our office for further assistance and facilitation of cost-of-living relief. Due to the demand, I have decided to hold a second 'bring your bill' day, in August 2024, to assist my struggling constituents.

I am doing what I can to assist my constituents on the ground. I ask that the government do more to assist with the cost-of-living crisis and offer relief that targets Australians who are doing it tough.

My qualms with this budget do not stop there. Small businesses get almost no slice of the pie within the budget. Eligible small businesses can expect a one-off $325 rebate on their energy bill. Now, I know that there are small businesses in my electorate whose energy bill has almost tripled, from $4,000 to almost $12,000. So, while this $325 is a great thing, I don't know how big a dent it will make on such large bills for small businesses.

I acknowledge that the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses has been extended for another 12 months. However, the cost of equipment and inventory exceeds this and the instant asset write-off may not give the relief required. Instead, we should invest more in small businesses.

The Future Made in Australia plan revealed a one-billion-dollar initiative to create a manufacturing base for solar products. My electorate is replete with manufacturers and manufacturing is the largest employer in my electorate. Why are we not investing in smaller manufacturing companies that have the potential to grow and develop in a globally competitive market? This will also create more jobs for Australians and those within my electorate. This is such a missed opportunity.

As I mentioned before, our health system, I think, is really broken, and something has to be done about it. Our hospitals have been overwhelmed in trying to keep up with patients. As to measures, I understand there's an additional $227 million over three years from 2023-24 to boost the capacity of Medicare urgent care clinics, including 29 new clinics across Australia, but at what cost? What impact will this have on local GPs, especially in south-west Sydney where there's a critical shortage of GPs? Why is Fowler left behind when it comes to health care?

Following the release of the budget, I've had aged-care providers and nurses reaching out to me to share their disappointment with the budget. We all know that the aged-care system is due for reform and no longer fit for purpose. We are expecting an aged-care bill to address the royal commission's findings.

I held an aged-care forum to get to the bottom of what was not working. Aged-care professionals have shared that the aged-care industry has become less attractive to work in and they're struggling to retain skilled professionals. Particularly within Fowler, there was a high demand for aged-care professionals who can support older culturally-and-linguistically-diverse people. This was a big gap in providing for our ageing population in the aged-care services sector. The budget has put forward $65.6 million over four years from 2024-25 to attract and retain aged-care workers, collect more reliable data and improve outcomes for people receiving aged-care services. This is a big figure. How exactly is the fund being utilised to attract and retain talent, though? This is elusive to me and those aged-care professionals.

Whilst I could go on about whether the government has fallen short in the budget for my constituents, my intention is to simply bring to the government's attention that we can do more to aid Australians. The disappointing budget measures are a testament to this.

12:24 pm

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Few speeches in this chamber are as closely examined or analysed as the Treasurer's annual budget speech. Reams of column space and hours of broadcast and airtime are devoted to dissecting every aspect of it. The reason for the intense interest in the budget is obvious. Budgets matter. They matter a lot. They matter for the country and the way it is travelling and moving forward, and they matter for the individual. Both aspects are equally important. For the country, the budget is a technical statement on our economy. It's a barometer, if you like, of how we are travelling and our estimated revenues and expenditures. For the individual, on the other hand, the budget is a clear demonstration, in financial and other ways, of understanding where the government's priorities lie. So, if budgets matter, what does the most recent budget say to the country as a whole and to the individual? What message is it conveying?

With regard to the country, the budget clearly says that, in difficult global times, we are making progress. We may be an island continent, but we are not an island economy; hence, international concerns, interest rates and inflation are also very much our concerns. On these issues, though, progress has been made. For the second year in a row, a budget surplus has been delivered—an outstanding result. But it would be fair to say that the key to our economy is understanding that matters are finely poised, and, while we can remain quietly optimistic and confident, we need to remain vigilant.

Secondly, what does the most recent budget say to the individual in Australia, the pay-as-you-go taxpayer? What's the take-home message for them? The answer here, I think, lies in my former statements. Australians can be quietly confident about the future. They can be confident that the inflationary pressures that are driving the cost-of-living pressures are being addressed. They can be confident that responsible measures announced in the budget will make a real difference without adding any further inflationary pressures.

We look at the budget measures in this budget and we see a truly Labor budget—one that delivers for all Australians, not just a few; one that delivers real cost-of-living relief for all Australians to help with their everyday pressures. Across every part of this Labor budget and across every portfolio, the Albanese government is helping Australians.

From 1 July, every Australian will be paying less tax. That's 13.6 million Australian taxpayers who'll be better off under this government's fairer and better changes to the stage 3 tax cuts. In my community of Werriwa, that means over 80,000 Australians will be paying less tax. Under the Albanese government's bigger and fairer tax cuts, an additional 2.9 million Australians will now receive a tax cut, when compared to the coalition's plan. More low- and middle-income Australians will benefit. That's real money in the pockets of hardworking Australians, making a big difference to those in my community.

Changes to the previous government's tax plan will also see an increase in the Medicare levy low-income threshold, which will mean more than one million Australians will continue to be exempt from the Medicare levy or pay a reduced rate. The increase to the threshold will help those on low incomes keep more of what they earn, helping many in my community and across Australia who are doing it tough. This is because the government believes all Australians should earn more and keep more of what they earn. The budget delivers on that.

The cost-of-living measures in this budget don't end there. The budget delivers $300 in energy bill relief for every Australian household from 1 July. So every household will see a $75 reduction in their quarterly bills over the 2024-25 financial year. Energy bill relief is good for Australian households and good for the economy. It helps put downward pressure on inflation, which benefits everyone. Small businesses also benefit, with a $325 energy rebate for eligible small businesses.

The budget also helps one million Australian households with the cost of rent by increasing the maximum rate of Commonwealth assistance by a further 10 per cent, building on the 15 per cent increase in September 2023. That builds on the increased assistance since we came to office in 2022. In my community over 9,000 households have benefited from these increases.

The budget also continues to freeze social security deeming rates for a further 12 months, supporting over 6,000 income support recipients in Werriwa, including jobseekers and people on parenting payments, student payments and carer payments.

In addition to these measures, the Albanese government is freezing the cost of the maximum PBS co-payment for scripts to no more than $31.60 until 2026. For those Australians on pension or concession cards, the maximum PBS co-payment is frozen at $7.70 for five years, ensuring that Australians don't have to choose between filling a script and putting food on the table.

This budget not only addresses the short- to medium-term issues facing Australians but invests in supporting Australians in the long term. In Werriwa and broadly across Western Sydney, our communities have endured consistent underfunding in our infrastructure, the effects of which are now being acutely felt. Our communities have rapidly grown, yet the infrastructure investment required to support the growth has fallen short. This has markedly changed since 2022, with our election to government and with the election of the Minns government in 2023. Whilst it will take some time to make up for the lost investment, the government is committed to seeing Western Sydney succeed.

The budget delivers much-needed infrastructure funding to Western Sydney and my community of Werriwa. It delivers $1.9 billion towards 14 new projects and two existing projects, including Mamre Road stage 2 upgrade; Elizabeth Drive priority sections upgrade; Western Sydney Rapid Bus infrastructure upgrade; Cambridge Avenue upgrade; Western Sydney Freight Line stage 1; Western Sydney roads future planning; and South West Rail planning. Many familiar with these roads will know how traffic prone they are and how vital the investment will be.

The Albanese government is also locking in progressive increases to local roads funding under the Roads to Recovery Program and the Black Spot Program. Liverpool City Council will receive $12.59 million under Roads to Recovery, a boost of $5.4 million, under our government. In total, the five-year investment in Roads to Recovery for councils in Werriwa will increase to more than $45 million. I know that this investment will make a huge difference to my community. It will mean that they will get home sooner, spend less time in traffic and spend more time with their families.

This budget also delivers more funding for mental health services, with a $361 million investment to expand mental health service access for Australians. It builds on previous investments announced in the October 2022 budget and the May 2023 budget. A good example of this is the headspace in Edmondson Park. This was a commitment I took to the 2022 election, and I'm delighted to say it is now being delivered on. Recently I visited the site at Edmondson Park, alongside the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride. Once the building work is complete, my community will benefit from better access to mental health services. I look forward to it being open in August this year.

These are not press release announcements. These are investments in real people and services and make a tangible difference in all our communities. I commenced my remarks today by noting that budgets matter and that few issues discussed in this place draw more public attention or scrutiny in the media. In a world where freedom of the press is often challenged and genuine analysis of government policies is often lacking, the scrutiny is welcome and in fact is needed more now than ever.

In this regard, I am firm in the belief that any serious examination of the 2024 Australian federal budget will show that it is finely tailored and cut for the time. It gets the balance right and it provides confidence for markets and investors, both nationally and globally, as well as responding to the real and genuine needs of the Australian public and my community in Werriwa. The 2024 budget is good for the economy and good for working Australians. It delivers where it needs to and hits the mark. I commend it to the House.

12:34 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great privilege to be able to speak on the budget papers, a machination in this House which is an extension of the appropriations bills, because it's an opportunity for the opposition to share just how difficult people are finding trying to make ends meet under these cost-of-living pressures that have been inflicted on them by a poor government.

I have got people in my electorate, elderly people, dealing with power prices that have near tripled. Elderly people, such as friends of my mum, are making decisions not to turn a heater on in the middle of winter in fear that they have no understanding as to how they can make the power bill payments, so they choose to put another layer of clothing on rather than inflict upon themselves a greater cost.

I have working families, double-income households, mums and dads working full time and trying to pay off a mortgage. On 12 consecutive occasions since this government came to office, their mortgage payments have gone up and up and up. There's actually a new economic term these days for those working families. They're called the 'new working poor', who are making decisions around what meals they can put on the table each night for their families because their disposable incomes under this government have become so minuscule that the only way that they can make savings to try and make ends meet is through the different purchasing decisions they make when it comes to feeding their own children, because they've got to make the car payment, they've got to make the house payment and they've got to make the insurance payment, all of which have gone up under this government. I'll get to the reason why when I speak on the inflationary pressures.

Those on the other side of the parliament come to this chamber and say that there's $300 worth of relief coming for energy prices. That is a bandaid on a bullet wound. When your electricity payments have gone up $700 for the year and their idea of economic relief is $75 each quarter, that is laughable. But then, from an inflationary perspective, when you use that $75 handout, a previous parliament's prime minister once said, 'When someone tells you something is for free, that just means that somebody else is paying for it.' So the question we have to ask ourselves around the policy of handouts is: is it actually helping the economic environment at the moment, or is it kicking the tin down the road, where someone is going to have to pay for it in the long term?

When we look at the budget papers and what the big costs are on our balance sheet, the two biggest ones that we have into the forward estimates are (1) the NDIS, and I'll get to some of the out-of-control spending that's happening in that space—ultimately, the pensioners in my electorate, who are choosing to sit in the cold and are still making tax payments, will end up paying for that—and (2) interest on debt. So, when we borrow money to hand out as handouts, we're only kicking the tin down the road and making it a problem for our children.

This government have been appalling managers of our economy, and it's been a trainwreck since the day they arrived. Prior to the election, on 200 occasions they said on the record that they'd provide a $275 tax relief. They're trying to say now that by giving the $300 they're honouring that commitment, but the reality is that, as I've outlined earlier on, there has been a $700 increase, and the $300 goes nowhere near fixing it.

The reason they're poor economic managers is that they've got different priorities. When we were in government, we looked to address the real cost-of-living pressures. When these guys have got a spare $450 million, they run off around the country delivering a referendum on the Voice. Not one state supported them—not one single state. It was near-on 70 per cent across the country, with the exception of one of the territories. It was the greatest waste of money our country has experienced and an enormous policy failure.

And I don't know who makes the strategy decisions for the Australian Labor Party, because, immediately after that, somebody decided that it would be a good idea if they went and let a couple of hundred detainees out of detention to run around the country. Yes, the courts said that one of them needed to be let out, but the court didn't indicate that everyone had to be let out. Murderers, paedophiles—some of the worst characters who we had locked up were let out, and then the taxpayer was asked to house them. So I've got pensioners who can't turn the heater on and we're providing housing in a cost-of-living crisis for the most undesirable.

Then, as I've mentioned, there have been the 12 hikes in interest rates. If you have a household mortgage, under this government you have felt every single one of them. You have felt the pain. And we can't be sure that it's over yet. We can't be sure that there's not another rate rise coming. What happens is we've got monetary policy from the Reserve Bank and we've got fiscal policy from us. The Reserve Bank of Australia have made it clear that they have got two feet firmly pressed on the brake pedal of our economy, trying to slow the economy down so they can take pressure off interest rates so that families' mortgage payments can start tracking down. They're trying to get inflation back into that 2-3 per cent range, which we've asked them to do. Meanwhile, as you've heard openly from those on the other side, they're shovelling money into the economy by way of handouts. They're shovelling money into our economy, stimulating our economy—the very opposite of what the Reserve Bank is asking them to do. That's $315 billion dollars worth of extra stimulus money since this government has come to office into the economy, working in the exact opposite economic contrast of what the Reserve Bank is trying to achieve.

Basic fundamentals are being overlooked. I spoke earlier on about the NDIS and some of the wasteful spending that's going on. We heard in the parliament more recently about the outrageous spends in the NDIS—money being spent on cars and overseas holidays. There was even some nefarious expenditure around prostitution and cash being taken out of ATMs to purchase illicit drugs. It's just unfathomable that taxpayers' funds would be used in such a way with little or no oversight by a government who claimed to be the very architects of this program. You'll hear those on the other side talk about a trillion dollars worth of debt that they inherited, but can I remind you that during COVID we put JobSeeker in place to save those businesses and to save those families. We put it in place for a period of six months. When we said we had to turn this funding off, the shadow Treasurer, the member for Rankin, said that this economy would fall off a cliff if we stopped this funding. They espoused that the only way we could save the economy from falling off a cliff was to continue to handouts, but we made the prudent decision to stop it. And what happened? The economy didn't fall off a cliff. Eventually, the nation deserves better. The nation deserves the adults back in the room when it comes to managing prudent economics of our nation.

The pensioners in my electorate deserve better economic managers so that when next winter comes they don't have to make a decision as to whether or not they sit with an extra layer of clothing on. We have to fix the energy crisis, because with the energy crisis we have been told that the energy from the sun was going to be free and that the wind was going to be free, but the only thing that's happening is that power prices are going through the roof and they will continue to do so under this government.

Debate adjourned.