Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Matters of Public Importance


5:28 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that at 8.30 today 17 proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator Thorpe, on her first day:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

The Morrison Government's budget for millionaires is a disaster for our climate and for economic equality, driving the expansion of dirty gas and giving billions in corporate handouts

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

[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.

5:33 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Ah, the Australian Greens party! It's hard to know sometimes whether they're for real, isn't it? You can always count on them, though, to demand that more money be applied to the least productive members of our society, day in, day out, of course to be taken by force from those people who do produce until there remains no incentive whatsoever for anybody to produce anything. Why would you, when not producing is rewarded but producing is to be penalised harshly? That's some economic strategy!

None of this should be taken as a judgement on those people who, because of circumstances beyond their control, can't work. We on the coalition side believe in giving a hand to those people who are doing it tough, but in a way that is sustainable, in a way that doesn't undermine the important ethic that says all of us must take responsibility for our lives and that working is not optional for people of working age and capacity. So, while this government has provided help to those people whose work has been affected and disrupted by the pandemic—either to keep them connected to their work, with JobKeeper, or to provide temporary relief for unemployment by using JobSeeker—we make no apology for being focused on helping people back into work rather than providing or generating a lifestyle or a culture where a life on welfare is a comfortable choice. But that's the Greens' approach! That's what the Australian Greens party advocates for in this place, day in and day out. Do you know what, Madam Acting Deputy President O'Neill? The idea that we should all live comfortably on welfare while contributing nothing is corrosive to our pride, it is corrosive to our self-respect and it is corrosive to our prosperity as a nation.

I want to come back to the words of this matter of public importance. It would be laughable if they weren't serious. They call this the Morrison government's 'budget for millionaires'. Are they for real? The Greens could not be more out of touch. There are tax cuts for everyone, and an effective doubling up of the tax assistance that's provided to low- and middle-income earners. They get both the tax cut and the extension of the low-income tax offset. We're effectively doubling up on the help that we are providing to give incentives to people on low and middle incomes to do as much work as they can get their hands on. I acknowledge that's difficult at this point in time. What we need is more jobs, and that's what this budget is all about. This budget is about jobs, jobs, jobs—jobs for young people, jobs for older people and jobs so that the dignity of work can be restored after the disruption of COVID.

But here's what the Australian Greens party just do not get. Where do they think jobs come from? They don't come from a magical job tree and they don't come out of a magical job hat or a magical job pudding. The Greens complain incessantly about anything that might provide any assistance to any business to do what they do. But, hang on: where do jobs come from? Jobs come from viable businesses. And so they get up here and bleat about assistance to anything in a corporate structure. I think the words they used here were 'corporate handouts'. Well, for the small businesses in my home state of Queensland who are given incentives in this budget to take on more staff—be it an apprentice or a young worker—that's not a corporate handout. That's real, practical assistance to get a person started in work.

For the small business that's trying to find out whether or not it's viable to do a fit-out of its premises so that it can take on more clients, or for the farmer who is trying to work out whether or not he can afford a new harvester—trying to work out whether he can invest—the assistance we're providing by way of making it possible to deduct immediately the cost of those assets from their tax bill is not a corporate handout. That's facilitating investment in the jobs of Australians. I cannot believe that there would be people who come in here, day after day, with their economic gobbledegook which says you cannot provide support to businesses but jobs magically appear. The thing is that we need strong, viable, profitable and sustainable businesses for the long term if we're going to get Australians back into work.

Australians don't want to be on JobKeeper and Australians don't want to be on JobSeeker. Australians want a job that allows them to achieve freedom of choice and the freedom to be able to support their families on their terms, rather than being confined by a welfare life.

To those members of the Greens with their magical job tree I say, no, that's not how it works. It's okay to support the businesses of Australia—overwhelmingly small businesses, I might add—because it is those businesses that underpin the prosperity of every Australian. The word 'corporate' is not a dirty word. Did you get the memo, Australian Greens? A corporation is just a group of people who've got together to build something great for this country, to produce something great for this country. What do they produce? They might be manufacturers producing items that we sell overseas. They might produce the services that we sell to Australians or around the world. They might produce the resources that those opposite find so very, very offensive but that power all of the things that we enjoy in our modern lifestyle and wouldn't want to give up. They are the resources that produce the energy that we need to run this country and to sustain jobs. We don't apologise for it; we're proud of it.

When I hear that 890,000 Queensland businesses will be eligible for business tax incentives, including temporarily deducting all of their eligible expenses with no asset limits, I think that's a wonderful thing, because that's an investment in Queenslanders' jobs. The budget increases total payments to Queensland by $8.1 billion over the forward estimates, and every single dollar is an investment in the infrastructure that produces jobs. It's an investment in the infrastructure that improves our productivity, which also produces jobs. It's an investment in the futures of Queenslanders. They will not have a life on welfare, a life of hopelessness, a life of working out whether or not one can get by on whatever the government decides is the welfare rate for the time being, until it runs out of money because it has no plan to make this country prosperous and productive. That's what the Australian Greens argue for every day of the week.

No, this is a path to economic recovery, a path for all Australians to choose their own adventure of aspiration, to decide what they want out of life, to decide for themselves what careers they want, to have real choice in the jobs that they take on, to be able to choose to travel—once our borders open again, of course—to be able to choose to invest in a home, to educate their children the way they wish. This path offers real choice, the kind of choice that no life confined to welfare, in the way that the Australian Greens seem so determined to inflict upon Australians, could ever deliver.

5:43 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm glad that this motion gives me the opportunity to share a few observations about last night's federal budget and what it contains for the country as a whole and, in particular, for my state of Queensland. I have to say my overwhelming reaction to last night's budget was one of disappointment. I really did think that, at a time when Australia is facing its worst recession since the Great Depression, there would be some more vision from this federal government about the kind of country that we want to have as we emerge from this crisis and the budgetary support that would be provided to make sure that we get there. Instead, what we saw last night from the government was a budget that was about spinning wheels. Sure, there are some significant announcements in the budget—there are some significant funding injections—but it doesn't really take us anywhere.

The budget is about getting things happening, rather than actually setting us up for the sort of future that we need as a country, so I think that that is a lost opportunity. When we face these kinds of conditions, it really should force us to think about the kind of country that we want to have in the future and the types of problems that we saw in our country heading into this crisis. This budget would have been an opportunity to actually fix some of those problems and make Australia stronger, more prosperous and more inclusive than it was prior to the crisis.

When we look at the key initiatives of this budget, some of them are things that Labor have been calling on this government to do for a very long time. We have been calling on this government to bring forward the stage 2 tax cuts for many, many months. We have been calling on the government to increase its investment in infrastructure for many, many months. Now that the government are finally doing these things, they want to sit back and wait for all this glory and acclamation for having done things that Labor have been calling on them to do for months. You can't help but wonder where the country would be now if the government had acted on Labor's suggestions months ago, when we first started making them. Where would the country be now if the government had brought forward those stage 2 tax cuts months ago, as we had called on the government to do? How many jobs would have been created in the infrastructure projects that the government is finally agreeing to now if it had done that months ago, as Labor had called on the government to do? I think that, all in all, the budget is a pretty underwhelming document in terms of what it will do in the short term and the longer term for the country.

Today we saw the awkwardness that emanated from every government senator on the government benches when they were reminded that they will be the government remembered for presiding over $1 trillion worth of debt in our country. I've only been here a short time, but I know how many speeches I've heard from government senators telling us that the way to prosperity and success is to have a government that's about low taxes and low debt. I remember the insults that have been thrown at Labor for so long about the debt and deficit disaster that we apparently ushered in after the GFC—at a fraction of the debt that this government is now racking up.

But what's worse than that is the very little we will have to show for the debt that is being racked up by this government. They are racking up $1 trillion in debt. As he leaves this parliament, Senator Cormann will always be remembered as the $1 trillion man—probably something he didn't aspire to, but that will be his record.

Senator Dean Smith interjecting

I'll come to that, Senator Smith. Senator Cormann will be remembered as the $1 trillion man, much as he might not want that description applied to him—

An honourable senator: If he's remembered at all!

If he's remembered at all! For all of that spending, it's hard to see what we're going to get from it. It's not as if we're going to get some massive new investment in child care or finally get a fix for the aged-care crisis that this government has presided over. There is no more social housing being provided to address the housing crisis this government has presided over and no jobs coming for tradies building that social housing. For all that debt that's being racked up by the government, we're still going to see an increase in unemployment and we're still going to see wages in this country not rise for four years. In fact, the budget papers say the government is forecasting that there's going to be a real wage cut over the next 12 months; people's wages are going to go backwards over the next 12 months, once you take inflation into account.

I would have thought if the government was going to rack up $1 trillion in debt it might at least be able to get unemployment down and ensure Australians are going to get a wage rise and, therefore, have more money to put through local businesses and create jobs. I would have thought we might see a fix for the childcare system, particularly to encourage women back into work. I would have thought we might see a fix to the aged-care crisis. But what we now know is that, after this debt is being racked up, all of those problems will still remain for a future government to deal with. That is a really lost opportunity for this government and for the country as a whole.

The other really disappointing aspect of the budget last night is that the government didn't take up Labor's suggestion to reverse the cuts the government has imposed on JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Again, in my state of Queensland alone, those cuts which have taken effect over the last few days are impacting on hundreds of thousands of people. I will give you a few examples. In Brisbane, it's estimated that there are about 273,000 people who have had JobKeeper or JobSeeker cut over the last few days. On the Gold Coast, it is about 165,000 people.

Senator Hume interjecting

I'm happy to take that absurd interjection from Senator Hume, which we've been hearing all week. They are so terrified of the reality that they have cut the JobSeeker payment and JobKeeper payment that they want to turn it into some extension. Let me give you a tip. When someone's receiving $1,500 a fortnight on JobKeeper, and it's reduced by hundreds of dollars a fortnight, it's not an increase, it's a cut. 'Cut' might not be a word that you like; it might not be a word that you want to use. But reducing a payment by hundreds of dollars a fortnight is not an increase; it can only be labelled as a cut—a cut imposed as part of the Morrison recession. And this is going to make things worse.

At a time when the economy is so precarious, cutting the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to hundreds of thousands of people in Brisbane, Logan, the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Central Queensland, the Fraser Coast, North Queensland and outback Queensland is taking millions of dollars out of those local economies every single week. That's money that people had in their pockets and were able to spend in local businesses; it is money they will no longer have. That is going to have a devastating impact on those local economies, and we saw nothing last night to address that and change that.

The other thing we didn't see in the budget last night was the funding that the Queensland opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, claims to have to upgrade the Bruce Highway in Queensland. Ms Frecklington has spent the last week driving from Brisbane to Cairns telling people all along the way that, if she's elected as the Premier of Queensland, she's going to make the Bruce Highway a four-lane road from Brisbane to Cairns. That would cost $33 billion. She's saying she'll put in 20 per cent, which means she needs about $26 billion from the federal government to meet her commitment to make the Bruce Highway four lanes. And what did we see last night? We saw $200 million committed by the federal government to the Bruce Highway. So she's about $26.2 billion short. She will only make it up by cutting, just like the federal government is cutting right now. (Time expired)

5:53 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I will discuss the real economic inequalities that this government has created and the disastrous effect they're having on hardworking Australians.

As we've heard in the last half-hour, the Greens and Labor play as a tag team to attack the government on the budget's inequalities. Yet both are complicit in supporting the most destructive and regressive attack on the working class ever seen in our country—that is, the United Nations-led war on cheap energy. This war is hurting humanity, destroying the environment and curtailing the freedoms and sovereignty of our nation. Let's not forget that, while Labor and Greens policies will cause a swift and evil end to affordable energy in our country, the Liberal and National parties' approach is death by a thousand climate regulations. In the end, whether Labor-Greens or Liberal-Nationals climate policies prevail, the destruction of our economy will be the same; only the length of time it will take to deindustrialise and destroy our way of life will differ.

The Greens and Labor talk about inequality, yet they ignore the inequalities their own policies have on Australians. Where is the equality for Australians, who are now paying 39 per cent of their electricity bills for climate policies and renewable subsidies? Although the government tell us it's only six per cent, it's own data says 39 per cent and cannot be sensibly refuted. Where is the equality for Australians, who are paying $526,000 for every wind turbine erected in Australia with taxpayer subsidies going directly to, mostly, foreign companies? They're paid even when the turbine generates no power. Where is the equality for working-class Australians, who are paying $13 billion extra a year in higher electricity bills due to climate policies championed by wealthy elites, who can afford the higher cost of electricity? Where is the equality for Australians, whose economy is being destroyed through trying to limit our 1.3 per cent of global human CO2 when countries like China, who produce 30 per cent of global human carbon dioxide, build hundreds of new coal-fired power plants? This is not democracy; this is hypocrisy. I would like everyone in this chamber to take a moment to think about the most vulnerable people in our society—the poor, the elderly, students, the unemployed—and the effect your climate policies are having on them. This is a highly regressive tax on these people. The proportion of our electricity bills created by climate policies is now 39 per cent. Again, this figure is from state and federal governments' own figures.

Paying for an essential service like electricity is becoming a luxury for some. For the majority it means less disposable income for families to spend on food, birthday presents or a family holiday. When are you, my colleagues in this chamber, going to start focusing on what is good for the people of Australia rather than on enriching your corporate mates in the green energy business and virtue signalling to the elites and the United Nations? You were elected as servants to the people of Australia. It's time you started acting like it.

5:56 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in this MPI debate in the context of, having read the MPI, wanting to add my welcome to the welcome of other senators to Senator Thorpe and saying to her that it's very fortunate. Some of us have been here for more than 12 months and not got an MPI up. She's got an MPI up in her first week, and that's a very good thing.

This MPI goes to the centrality of economic equality to any sense of social justice and the deep disappointment that most Australians will have in the failure of the budget to deal in any meaningful way with the context of the deepest recession since the Great Depression. The Morrison recession is deeper and will go on for longer because of the policy failure of this government to deal with the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has presented for our economy. The test for this budget must be what it does for jobs, and for good jobs, for Australians in our cities and our regions. It fails that test completely. The myth created by those on the other side of some coalition capacity to manage the economy is surely now gone forever. There was the silliness of the Back in Black mugs they put around last year, which, strangely, you can't find. I tried to buy one late last year; they are just gone. Claiming a budget surplus before you deliver it is surely one of the silliest things that a Treasurer and a Prime Minister have done in Australian political history.

Up close, I've got to say that, over the last 12 months, I've realised how fragile is this myth of coalition economic capacity. Senator Cormann isn't going to be here for much longer, and his side rely upon him to continue that myth of economic credibility. But it's really only maintained by bluster and slogans. If you follow the bouncing ball of the logic of the of the coalition's claim to some economic credibility, it's all about debt. Well, if they had a debt truck in 2013 because there was $160 billion worth of Commonwealth debt following the global financial crisis, they would have needed a B-double at the end of last year and a road train wouldn't hold the slogan.

The point about debt is not how big it is; it's: what did you do with it? What did you achieve? We're in a position where much more than a trillion dollars of net debt, at its peak, will be in the economy, and what has been achieved? Today we have the highest number of Australians unemployed in our history. If you believe the government's own modelling, there are 160,000 more Australians to go who will lose their jobs between now and Christmas—if you believe that; we'll see what happens. The budget package is an utter failure. What is it going to deliver? How many people are going to go into good jobs because of this government's package?

The average Australian taxpayer is a 38-year-old woman with two kids. What's in the budget for her? If she's part of the million who are now unemployed, in December she can look forward to the JobSeeker package going back to $40 a day. If she isn't in the million people who have lost their jobs, is she going to be in the next 160,000—or, if you believe the Treasury estimates, 400,000—people who will lose their jobs between now and Christmas? If she has lost her job, some of the people who have lost their jobs because of the Morrison government's mismanagement of this recession face the prospect—according to the government's own estimates—of four long years of unemployment before they get a job.

If that 38-year-old woman with two kids wants to get back into work and if she was looking to this budget to deliver anything for her in terms of improvements to the childcare framework for Australian women and families, this budget has a big fat zero in it for her on childcare. If, like hundreds of thousands of other Australian women, she works in aged care, child care, retail or any of those other occupations that are highly feminised, there is nothing in the budget for her, just a legacy of wage stagnation and neglect in those sectors. Because she's 38 and the government's delivering precious little in terms of new job creation, what she faces is an incentive system that incentivises employers to employ anybody but her. She's got to face up to that additional challenge in the labour market.

We know what's worked. When Labor came here to the Senate and the House of Representatives demanding a wage subsidy program, those on the other side of this chamber, including the leader in the Senate, laughed the idea out of the place. Two weeks later, they launched JobKeeper and JobSeeker. We know those programs have worked to maintain a relationship between some workers and their businesses, more than three million of them, and they've kept hundreds of thousands of businesses afloat. But both the programs are going to be cut. Despite what Senator Hume says, they will go on for a bit longer but the rate is going to be reduced and it's going to have a catastrophic effect. The only recovery that's going to happen over this year is a liquidator led recovery, because of your cuts to the JobKeeper program that will send many businesses to the wall.

This recession is a pure product of absolute mismanagement. It is the Morrison recession. Your cuts mean hundred of thousands more Australians will lose their jobs. Tens of thousands of Australian businesses will close because you don't understand your responsibility, as a government, to manage the economy. Australians have got precious little for their $1 trillion worth of extra debt. Mr Frydenberg and the Prime Minister would have us believe that the economy is in good shape, that we were in a good financial position as we approached the end of 2019. But what have we had? We have had flatlining growth. For most Australians, wages have been falling. We have had a long period of wage stagnation. In the record books, ordinary Australians could not get ahead. Unemployment and underemployment are steadily working their way up. There are 1.8 million Australians unemployed or underemployed. You are proud of that legacy. There are 1.8 million Australians without a job or without enough work. The RBA is doing all of the heavy lifting in the economy. Interest rates are at historic lows because this lot couldn't do their job and productivity is declining. They're just not very good at economic management. The verdict on their economic management will be the same as the royal commission's verdict on their management of the aged-care system: neglect and failure.

6:06 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to contribute to this debate today. Last night's budget was a sheer disappointment for those who have been the hardest hit by this pandemic and the recession that has followed. The moment restrictions had to be brought in to manage the health crisis, we knew that hundreds of thousands of Australians working within the hospitality industry, the tourism industry and the arts and entertainment industry would be out of work. Yet last night the Treasurer could not even bring himself to utter the words 'art', 'artists', 'creatives', 'entertainers'—nothing. The hardest-hit sector that binds our hospitality and tourism industry together has been left out in the cold once again. We are talking about 600,000 Australian workers, who bring $112 billion to the economy. They have been left on the scrap heap. Many of them have never been able to access JobKeeper. They are still left out in the cold. Many of them are casual workers who have had hours cut, jobs cut and wages lost; and their savings, if they had any, are now running dry. We are talking about artists, musicians, authors, photographers, graphic designers, florists and the thousands and thousands of dance teachers across this country who run the dance schools that Australians send their kids to every weekend—or used to be able to.

Hundreds of thousands of Australian artists and those who work in the creative industries have been left on the scrap heap today after receiving nothing in this budget despite being hit the hardest by this economic crisis. Of course, the arts and entertainment industry, like retail, hospitality and tourism, is predominantly female oriented. Women are at the heart of this crisis, carrying the economic burden, and they have received nothing out of this budget. It beggars belief that, after six months, the Treasurer last night gave a speech and did not utter a word about supporting Australia's arts and cultural sector and industry. It's as if art doesn't matter. It's as if culture doesn't exist. It's as if, for the last six months of lockdown, Australians have not turned on the television or their streaming service and watched shows that have entertained them, or have not turned on the radio or stereo and listened to music or have not got themselves into a good book. It's as if art and culture in this country mean nothing.

The Prime Minister spends quite a bit of time going to the football. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every now and then he went to a community arts centre? Wouldn't it be wonderful if he swapped the footy scarf every now and again for a book that was written by an Australian author? Or supported some kids at their local community art show? That is the kind of Prime Minister who would be acting in the interests of every single Australian.

6:10 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to stand to contribute tonight on behalf of the Nationals and on behalf of every single senator, I think, on the coalition government benches to back this budget in. This is not just a budget for blokes, as the other side wants to make it out to be; this actually is a budget for everyone.

As I was reading the motion here before us, it's the trite structure of the sentence; it's reverting to type—pull out your Marxist doctrine, flip to page 6—the righties are only in it for the millionaires! I'll tell you what the righties are actually in it for: we're in it for every single Australian—working men and women, young people and people from rural and regional Australia, who I've been sent here to represent. Senator Thorpe, I welcome you to the Senate from our home state of—well, the 'Republic of Dan-estan' at the moment—a beautiful place called Victoria. But it is disappointing that you have so quickly picked up the baton of rhetoric from the Greens and want to attack every single thing that rural and regional Australians stand for.

What we do in terms of supporting our families is that we are the miners, the foresters, the manufacturers and the farmers. We care for our environment, we care for our communities and we care for our families. It is COVID-19 that has wrought absolute havoc on regional and rural communities right across the country, not just in Victoria. We've had the ravages of drought, we've had the horrors of bushfire, we've had the lockdown of COVID-19 and, for those rural and regional communities that have been in border towns, it's been absolutely horrific to see the resultant economic and social impact of the city-centric decision-making by our state premiers.

We need a strong vision of recovery, one that provides confidence to families right across our nation. That resilience that drives regional Australians is indeed felt right throughout our community. I believe that the budget handed down by Josh Frydenberg last night absolutely delivers in spades on that account. Instead of terming it as expanding 'dirty' gas and giving billions in corporate handouts, I think the Treasurer made it very, very clear, that our No. 1 sole outcome we're seeking from this budget and our recovery from the pandemic is about jobs. That's local jobs—local jobs for our young people, getting them in as apprentices; assisting women back into the workforce; and supporting the millions of small business men and women right across this country who are the very heart of our local communities. Whether you're in a regional city, such as Bendigo, or whether you're in a country town, such as Benalla, or, indeed, the suburbs of our great cities, it is the small business community that has really borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are the ones that will drive our economic recovery; they are the ones who will employ. No matter how big you want to make the Public Service or the charitable organisations that drive certain areas of your political campaigns, at the end of the day you have to accept the fact that the vast majority of Australians earn their living working for a small to medium enterprise. We need to support these enterprises and that's what our budget does. When you say we're giving corporate handouts to the big end of town, you haven't actually listened to a word our government has said or read the budget papers.

The reality is that, with regard to the instant asset write-off announced by the Treasurer, I've had call after call after call, email after email after email to my office from farmers and small businesses right throughout Australia saying what a boon this will be to them. Do you know what that will mean? It'll mean they will be able to keep their employees on the books. It'll mean that small business will be able to pay their bills and local economies will be supported. That is how we're going to recover from the horrors that this global pandemic has wrought on our national economy. You say 'dirty gas'. Gosh, dirty gas, hey? What is it? Dirty coal, dirty gas—

Honourable Senator:

An honourable senator interjecting

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There we go. Thank you, Senator, I'll take that interjection. What we want to see is advanced manufacturing grow and prosper in this country. Right now, 32 per cent of our manufacturing workforce is located in rural and regional areas. We want to see that workforce expanded. Industrial relations are sometimes an issue, as is the cost of electricity, which is one of the main input costs for manufacturing. Any break in the reliability of electricity supply can cost tens of thousands of dollars, even if electricity is off for only few seconds. That is the reality of running a manufacturing plant, whether it be in food or fibre, in mineral production or in defence manufacturing. That is a fact. I'm not making it up because of my ideology. It's science, and you can't selectively pick pieces of scientific knowledge to suit your ideological purposes.

If we want to grow manufacturing in this country, if we want people to be employed in regional Australia, we need to back sourcing cheap, reliable energy. That means doing things that we have promised to do, like assessing the cost-benefit analysis of a coal fired power station at Collinsville. It also means backing in expanding our gas market to ensure that our manufacturing industries have access to affordable and reliable power. It's that simple. We believe that this is the way forward, and it will have the additional benefit of lowering emissions. Right now, we import a lot of stuff from overseas that is not produced using renewable energy or gas. It's not produced using the beautiful high-calorific black coal of Central Queensland, but its production comes with very, very high emissions. If you were honest with yourselves and accepted the science, you would choose to support local manufacturing and not imports.

Out in the regions, we have a nearly $280 billion mining industry and a $60 billion agriculture industry. We want to be not just exporting raw product to the markets of the world but adding value at home to create highly sustainable, rewarding careers in the advanced manufacturing sector going forward. It's a big push in our budget, and I'm very, very proud to be part of a government that is backing in that part of our economy, because we've seen a significant decrease in manufacturing, from being nearly 30 per cent of our economy down to around five per cent. That's not a good thing. I want to see more manufacturing, as does everybody in the National Party.

Our emissions reduction strategy is focused on technology, not on taxes. We think we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can support our community and our country to recover from COVID-19 through this budget, we can get people employed and we can also reduce emissions to fulfil our international targets. This is central to our ongoing economic recovery. A gas fired recovery is a key component of our JobMaker plan, while we are building a robust and competitive gas industry with lower prices and lower emissions, because gas will be a critical enabler of Australia's economy.

Our technology investment road map will guide the deployment of $18 billion of government investment between now and 2030, including through the CEC, ARENA, the Climate Solutions Fund and the Clean Energy Regulator. The road map will drive at least $50 billion worth of investment through the private sector, state governments, research institutions and publicly funded bodies, supporting 130,000 jobs. That is great news. As you can see, our side of the chamber is focused on supporting hardworking Australians, particularly those in our regions. We're focused on new technologies to create jobs and, at the same time, cutting emissions and power bills. You can do it all. It will be okay. You don't need to ruin people's lives and livelihoods to pursue your emissions reduction targets. The Nationals in government will continue to support mature technologies where there is clear market failure, like the shortage in dispatchable generation we are seeing at the moment.

6:21 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to begin by informing the chamber this is not my first speech. I feel a strong need to rise to speak on this matter today. I have only been in this chamber for one day and I'm immediately reminded of how out of touch this government is with everyday people in this country. It didn't take long for the Morrison government to show its true priorities—the millionaires—instead of the millions of people unemployed and struggling in this country. This government is trying to con us into believing that this terrible budget is good for people and for our planet. It is not.

Budgets are about what we value and the kind of country we want to live in. Let me tell you what the Morrison government values: dirty coal, dirty gas, dirty deals, and fracking the Galilee and Beetaloo basins. The Galilee Basin alone is the home of at least 12 distinct First Nations groups who have had an unbroken connection to caring for country for millennia—protection and preserving, not desecrating for profit and power. The Morrison government values giving public money to the Vales Point coal-fired power station, which is owned by a Liberal Party donor. The government values speeding us further into the climate emergency by prioritising fracking and dirty fossil fuels.

The Treasurer finally brought himself to say the words 'climate change' in his speech last night. But in his next breath he announced the government's plans for fracking. It's shameful the Morrison government are telling us all with this budget that they value millionaires more than the rest of us and more than our climate.

Australians yesterday wanted to know how this government would rise to the challenge of looking after people and the planet in the middle of a global crisis. Well, they didn't. This budget could have prioritised full employment, building public homes, growing our renewable energy sector, building high-speed rail and providing free child care and better aged care. We could have given Aboriginal community-controlled organisations the public money they need to continue looking after their communities. But in the worst recession in generations, we're borrowing money to pay for tax cuts for the rich, while people on income support or anyone earning less than $18,000 a year will get nothing. Shame. If we had taken this approach during the Great Depression, we'd still be in it.

The Greens are calling on our fellow senators from Labor and the crossbench to block the worst elements of this terrible trickle-down con job that spends big but spends badly. I'm here to fight for a smart, green recovery that addresses both the COVID crisis and the climate crisis we are in. People who are used to privilege and power in this country are making bad decisions for everyone else.

6:25 pm

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

I rise to make a contribution to this MPI:

The Morrison government's budget for millionaires is a disaster for our climate and for economic equality, driving the expansion of dirty gas and giving billions in corporate handouts.

Last night's budget, touted by the Treasurer as a budget all about jobs, does nothing for those who will remain unemployed. That's because even the government says and knows that there will still be around six per cent unemployment, even if their wildest dreams come true. Those people deserve support from our social security system, so that they are not living in poverty and so that their wellbeing is ensured. The Treasurer mentioned JobSeeker three times in his speech last night, that I counted, but did not mention and did not commit to any permanent increase to JobSeeker nor give security to those who do not know whether, at the end of December, they will be condemned to $40 a day. In fact, at the moment that's what is going to happen. People on the JobSeeker payment or on youth allowance basically at the moment know that they will end up in deep poverty. With the cut of $300 a fortnight, we know that they've been put below the poverty line, but by the end of December they will be in the deep poverty of $40 a day. We saw nothing for people on JobSeeker and youth allowance, who are becoming increasingly anxious about the future and whether they will be able to pay their bills or not.

This trickle-down budget is rooted in choices that will prolong our recession and fuel the climate crisis. The tragedy here is that we could move to a much more equal community and society and address the climate crisis, but the government has prioritised $99 billion a year in handouts to big corporations while unemployed Australians get nothing. Millions of Australians on high incomes will get tax cuts, but there's no guarantee that they'll spend the money. Whereas, if you commit to certainty for people on low incomes, and in particular those on the JobSeeker payment, if you guarantee certainty and make sure that they are given an income and supported above the poverty line, they will actually spend the money. They know that they have to put food on the table, pay their rent, pay their mortgages, go to the dentist, buy medications. They contribute to the community. In fact, by not making sure that people will continue to get paid the original coronavirus supplement, the government has taken out $31.3 billion from our economy. It means that 145,000 jobs are not available that would be available if the government were paying the coronavirus supplement at the original level of $1,100 a fortnight. That money would not only benefit the economy but, much more importantly, would make sure that people weren't living in poverty and that people's wellbeing was looked after. This budget condemns people to poverty. It also expands inequality and will help drive our climate crisis.

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for the discussion has expired.