Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Morrison Government

4:43 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make a contribution on this MPI and to raise the Morrison government's failure to adequately invest in the care economy. The government is failing to take the opportunity to make sure that, as we come out of this crisis, we focus on a better normal: addressing our health, economic, climate and inequality crises. An element where the government has been missing is underinvesting in the care economy, which must be part of our recovery. For too long, we have ignored the wellbeing and economic benefits from investing in social and community services. Investment in social infrastructure, such as community and social services, education, health, aged care and child care, has a positive impact on the whole of society. Not only does this address inequality and wellbeing; it increases productivity and generates future revenue. A focus on preventative health and social care is an investment in future wellbeing that also reduces the need for further public expenditure if we are addressing these issues.

New research from The Open University shed light on the economic and social benefits of investing in, as they call it, the care industry. Research has found that if Australia invested one per cent of its GDP in the care industry it would result in raising the employment rate by 1.2 per cent. If we invested the same amount in the construction industry it would only increase the employment rate by 0.2 per cent. That's not to say construction isn't important. Issues such as public transport, renewable energy and social housing must be invested in, but that is not enough for our recovery.

Furthermore, investment in the care economy would help reduce the gender employment gap. The research showed that 79 per cent of new jobs created through investment in the care industry would be filled by women. There are clearly striking benefits to investing in education, health, social services and community services—benefits that you would think any government investing in and navigating its way out of this crisis and recession would be interested in capitalising on. It just shows how critical the care economy is to our recovery. This research is very important and I urge the government to take it on board. The social fabric of our nation is important. In the midst of a recession, we need a new way of doing things. I urge the government to recognise the value of the care economy and start investing to deliver access to essential services for all Australians.


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