Wednesday, 7 October 2020
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
I feel a little bit sorry for the Labor Party at the moment. It may be my Catholic guilt coming in here, but I feel a little sorry for them, because they are struggling here. They're struggling to mount a logical and coherent rebuttal or opposition, if you like, to last night's budget. I know it's the job of the opposition to oppose, so I know they naturally feel this morning that, whatever was announced last night, they are duty-bound to take an opposition viewpoint. But it's pretty hard, as I think we've just seen. It's pretty difficult. This is a moment when I think Australians want to see us come together and support the country and the nation in its recovery from what has been probably a once-in-a-century upheaval to the global economy. It would be, I think, a little more productive and constructive if the Labor Party came into this place and put forward some productive and constructive ideas about how we can recover from what has been the worst recession in our nation's history rather than simply oppose everything that has been put forward.
As I said, there are errors right through the Labor Party's response to the budget today. The very starting point of their response is clearly incorrect. We've seen the Labor Party try to get some kind of traction out of this term 'the Morrison recession'. For a political slogan to work, it has to have some kernel of truth, some basis in fact. Does anyone think that the recession that we are experiencing right now is a result, directly, of the actions of this government? That is absolutely absurd. When every country in the world effectively—certainly in the Western world—has faced record-breaking reductions in economic output, it is not something that is alone to the Australian government. In fact, if you were to put up us against each other, the economic impact here has been much, much lower. We have the fortunate status of being an island and being able to lock up our borders—we accept that—but the economic reduction in output here has been about seven per cent, whereas that of our friends across the ditch has been well over 10 per cent, that of the UK has been 20 per cent and that of most countries in Europe has been well into double digits. So it's not something that's been directly caused by this government.
There are errors in the Labor Party response. I heard Senator Brown say that there's no new money for women or domestic violence. That's absolutely incorrect. I don't have time now to go through all of the initiatives for women in this budget, but, to home in on the point about domestic violence, there is money put forward in this budget to protect against domestic violence. There is more funding for the Help is Here advertising campaign, especially over Christmas this year, when we know people will face challenges; $4.8 million to give continued effect to the ban on direct cross-examinations; and $1.8 million towards criminalising breaches of Family Court orders. There's also $10.2 million for the Family and Federal Circuit courts to ensure the safety of vulnerable litigants and to manage the sharp increase in urgent applications we've seen through COVID. Those measures build on the $150 million the government has already put aside across the past two years to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence from the fallout from COVID-19. Millions of dollars has been put aside by the government during this pandemic to help those experiencing domestic violence, and more funding was provided last night as well.
There's a logical incoherence to the Labor Party's response. They are on the one hand criticising the government for increasing debt, which has been the necessary consequence of the economic fallout, and, on the other hand, saying JobKeeper and JobSeeker—JobSeeker particularly, as we just heard from Senator Brown—have to stay higher for longer than they are. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to spend more, you're going to increase debt. The desperate thing now is to get Australians back to work. That's why we're offering hiring incentives for apprentices and other workers. We have to get people back to work. We cannot keep paying people to sit on the couch right now, especially when many businesses I go to are desperate for workers. I was at a citrus farm in Emerald last week. They are ripping up trees right now because they cannot find workers. We've got to get people back to work so we can stop the economic destruction of our country.
Finally, I don't want to provide advice to the Labor Party, but, as I said earlier, it would be much better and more constructive if we worked together now to recover this nation, just as last night's budget is doing.