Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Statement and Documents

8:12 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to give the budget in-reply speech on behalf of the Australian Greens, and I acknowledge firstly that I do so on Ngunawal and Ngambri land—stolen land that was never ceded.

Madam Deputy President, don't believe the government's budget spin. This is not a transformative budget. Forget the phony rejection of austerity, forget the about-face on debt and deficit, forget the superficial concern with women's economic security, because, once you scratch the surface of this budget, you will see that, like the last seven budgets this government has delivered, it is built on the con that is trickle-down economics. This budget proposes no change to the fundamentals of our economy or to the tax and transfer system. The neoliberal train is rolling ever onward, barrelling through everything in its path, ruining lives, destroying nature and cooking the planet. And upfront in the locomotives are the LNP, shovelling coal into the firebox to keep the neoliberal train rolling on.

This budget was handed down while the planet's climate is breaking down around us, threatening the very existence of life, and while the destruction of ecosystems is already causing a rate of species extinction that is epoch-defining. This budget has been handed down while economic inequality is spiralling out of control. The billionaires are accumulating feudal-era levels of wealth while real wages are going backwards and millions of Australians are forced to subsist below the poverty line. House prices are spiralling out of control, pricing an entire generation out of the great Australian dream of owning their own home—an entire generation forced to either make a Faustian pact with their bank and live a life of debt or be at the mercy of their landlord, who can increase their rent or terminate their tenancy on a whim. And, more than a century after being given the right to vote and decades after countless reforms meant to create equal opportunity for women, women are still being disadvantaged. There is an epidemic of family violence, and the toxic attitudes of far too many men towards women are still persistent and pervasive.

So what do we get in this budget? What does this budget do to respond to the big social, economic and environmental issues of our time? We get business as usual. Sure, some of the rhetoric has shifted, and, sure, there are some good things in this budget, as there are in any budget, but, underneath it, the same superstructure that created the climate crisis, that is enriching the already superwealthy, that is empowering the big corporations and that is perpetuating patriarchal attitudes and behaviours remains. In some cases, such as the spending of even more public money to help big corporations make even more profit from burning coal and gas, this budget is quite literally adding more fuel to the fire.

But, in many cases, it's what's not in this budget that matters, such as all the inequalities and rorts in the tax system that have gone untouched and that will continue to disadvantage young people and women and anyone else who is not in favour with the LNP. The budget provides no solution to the climate crisis, no response to escalating wealth inequality and no credible plan to increase wages or to lift people out of poverty. True to type, what this budget has done is deliver for the government's mates. This is a budget that should have been and was welcomed by the big corporates and the billionaires. This government was never going to do anything other than look after the big corporates and the billionaires, because this government exists to serve its political masters and donors. That is exactly what this budget does. That is exactly why the LNP are in this place. That is in their DNA.

Nowhere is this government's enslavement to its corporate donors and corporate masters more evident than in its archaic attachment to fossil fuels. Governments and markets around the world are changing tack and decarbonising at a rapid pace. The world is transitioning to a clean energy future as the urgency of the climate crisis becomes impossible to avoid. The US is on board. China is on board. The EU is on board. Left or right, democratic or totalitarian, government led or market led, it doesn't matter; the switch is on. The only question left is whether the switch will be fast enough to stop a catastrophic collapse in the ecosystems that sustain life on earth.

But is Australia on board with the switch? No. Is the government on board with the switch? Oh no, it's not. Their determination is not only to resist change but to actually fight against it. It is as astonishing as it is insane. In this budget, the Morrison government is giving yet another billion dollars in new public subsidies to the oil, gas and coal sectors, on top of the over $50 billion in public subsidies that were already headed their way. Their showcase derangement is the so-called gas-led recovery, a shameful exercise in corporate welfare for the rent seekers using yesterday's technology. It's all about giving public money to LNP donors to build polluting power plants that will push up power bills and will further fuel the climate crisis. Gas use by Australians is going down each and every year, and government money for new gas that is contained in this budget is nothing but a white elephant.

Australia should be moving to become a world leader in batteries, renewables and green hydrogen. We have a chance to supply the world not only with clean energy but with clean resources—steel, aluminium, other metals refined by using our abundant supply of renewable resources. But such is the political-industrial nexus between the Liberal Party and the fossil fuel industry, the government is willing to squander that opportunity in its determination to prop up a dying industry. That's why they've served up yet another budget that sells out our children's future for the sake of the big corporates and the superwealthy.

Speaking of political donations, during the pandemic when every economic indicator went backwards in this country and when hundreds of thousands of Australians were put out of work, Australia's billionaires increased their wealth by 34 per cent—that is, by $90 billion in one year, in the middle of a global pandemic, when millions of Australians were unemployed or underemployed. This is nothing short of obscene and it's an obscenity aided and abetted by this government. It's not a bug; it's a feature of this government's policy settings. Sixty-five of Australia's largest companies were given $1.2 billion in JobKeeper payments even though they recorded a profit during the pandemic. This included $21 million to Harvey Norman, who paid dividends which helped Gerry Harvey grow his personal wealth by $600 million last year.


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