Wednesday, 7 October 2020
Matters of Public Importance
[by video link] I'm really pleased to be kicking off the debate on this matter of public importance: that the Morrison government's budget is a budget for millionaires and a disaster for climate and for economic equality, and it's driving the expansion of dirty gas and giving billions in corporate handouts. This is a budget for millionaires, not for the million unemployed. Budgets are about choices. This budget chooses to prolong the recession and fuel the climate crisis, and it gives young people the finger. This budget is brown and trickle-down. There is an eye-watering $99 billion in handouts to business that, rather than resulting in an economic resurgence, is likely to result in an orgy of spending on imported goods straight from overseas, in bigger corporate profits and in increased returns to shareholders.
As for jobs, what we're being offered is wage subsidies for young people for jobs that, sadly, will probably be par for the course for what young people can expect in the current circumstances: poorly paid, temporary and part-time. And they'll probably be time limited, because those subsidies only last for a year. Once that subsidy finishes in a year, the likelihood is that they'll be shown the door. JobSeeker and JobKeeper are still being slashed, so it's going to be back to living below the breadline for over a million Australians. They'll be struggling to survive, reduced to missing meals and couch surfing in this, one of the richest countries of the world.
Last night's budget was such a missed opportunity. Just think of the hope that would be in the air, the sense of optimism about the future, if last night the government had announced that, yes, it was spending $99 billion in sectors like renewable energy, green hydrogen, public housing, public transport, bike and walking infrastructure, aged care, child care and environmental restoration, or on a jobs and an education guarantee for young people. Not only would we be well on the way to implementing a green new deal; we would be creating tens of thousands of jobs and tackling our climate crisis. We are in a critical decade for climate action, but this budget gives money to Liberal donors in the coal and gas industry, fast tracks climate collapse and turbocharges inequality. Scott Morrison envisages a gas-powered future, where 99 per cent of companies get tax breaks but two million people don't have enough work.
They're doubling down on transport infrastructure that locks in pollution, props up fossil fuel corporations and makes the climate crisis even worse. There is zero funding for public transport projects in my home city of Melbourne. There is zero funding for projects like high-speed rail, and an absolute pittance for electric vehicles. There's no investment in active transport. In Victoria, cycling has tripled since the pandemic, but people are going to be forced back into their cars once they return to onsite work, because the safe bike paths to get them to work just don't exist. Imagine the difference we could make if walking and cycling were a national priority and we invested at least a billion dollars to build zero-carbon walking and cycling infrastructure that would make our neighbourhoods more livable and our transport networks less polluting.
This budget makes one thing clear: the government are not up for changing. They've backed right off the measures we applauded during the COVID crisis: free child care and the doubling of JobSeeker. This budget makes it really clear that they are wedded to their neoliberal ideology, small-government agenda. So it's now just as clear what needs to happen. Australia, we need to turf this government out of office.