Wednesday, 7 October 2020
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the response given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Waters today relating to the budget.
I asked the Minister for Finance about facets of the budget. I asked why millionaires are going to do better out of this government's budget than the million unemployed. I asked about their cooked gas-led recovery and the fact that some of their donors are now getting taxpayer handouts in this budget, yet there is a pittance for renewable energy. And then I asked why there is not a single cent for frontline domestic violence services in this, of all years, when we have seen what were already epidemic rates of domestic violence further increase. Unfortunately, Minister Cormann, true to form, rejected the premise of the question. I don't know why the government think that line is a really good one for them, because frankly it's just a national eye-roll every time they trot it out.
They rejected the premise that millionaires will do better out of these tax cuts than ordinary Australians. Most ordinary Australians, who earn less than $90,000 a year, got a one-off injection through the low- and middle-income tax offset, which expires after one year. Those tax cuts that will disproportionately benefit the already well-off—and twice as many men as women, I might add—and will last forever, but the low- and middle-income tax offset lasts just one year. It's a temporary boost. They want to try and claim some kind of equity here. Well, they're not fooling anybody.
Now to the gas-led recovery. This flies in the face of climate science and it flies in the face of economics. I think the minister trotted out that he thought more gas would somehow stimulate manufacturing, when we know that the sky-high gas prices, thanks to all the gas we've been exporting as we cook the climate, have made it harder for onshore manufacturing. So I genuinely don't understand how he can possibly have a different interpretation.
What was announced last night is public money to open up five new gas basins, two of which are in Queensland: the Galilee Basin and the North Bowen. There's some pretty good-quality farmland in those areas, and this government wants to use your money to give big multinational gas corporations a hand, a tax break, to rip out that fossil fuel in a way that will endanger the groundwater, wreck the on-surface operations of anyone actually using that land—they probably don't care whether they have traditional owner consent or not—and leak tonnes and tonnes of methane to the atmosphere. This is the so-called gas-led recovery.
Instead, we could have seen genuine investment in clean renewable energy that creates more jobs. This government has gone into the biggest debt ever, but it's giving this money to millionaires, big corporates and big polluters. You had a chance to fix the future and bring us back with a green-job-led recovery where we invest in climate action and services—hospitals, schools and other things that people rely on and, frankly, deserve. But no. It's just yet more money for big corporates and for millionaires—$99 billion in tax cuts and corporate subsidies. What an absolute joke! I guess that's why this cosy relationship between the donors and the politicians continues to astound and aggravate every single ordinary Australian I speak to about it.
The last aspect I asked about was why women are such an afterthought for this government. We know they don't have many women on their cabinet. We know they don't have a women's budget impact statement. They don't have a gender lens. Tony Abbott got rid of that in 2014, and they've consistently refused to bring it back. Last night they released a two-page women's economic statement with the budget, and then a few hours later they hastily released a slightly longer and very glossy paper that, frankly, didn't say much more and that constituted 0.035 per cent of the budget spend. I'm afraid we are more than 50 per cent of the population, folks. We deserve more than 0.035 per cent of the budget. As I said before, not a single cent of that pitifully small amount of money was for frontline domestic violence services. They're trying to rely on some earlier announcements which were welcome but very, very small. The women's safety sector asked for $12 billion over 12 years. They want $1 billion a year to keep women and children safe. What did they get? A big fat zero. I don't know what more we have to do to get this government to keep women and children safe and to do the right thing. How many more women are going to have to die for us to get proper funding?
Question agreed to.