Wednesday, 7 October 2020
Questions without Notice
Opposition senators interjecting—
but they're clearly not interested in the answer. They're more interested in playing politics than actually listening to the answer. As I was saying, gross debt is projected to keep growing until it stabilises at about 55 per cent as a share of GDP towards the end of the decade, which equates to about $1.7 trillion.
Unlike the Labor Party, the Australian people understand why we're here. They understand the impact of the COVID recession on our budget because they understand that, as a result of one million Australians losing their job in one month, this has had a severe impact on our government revenue and will have a severe impact on government revenue for some time to come. Tax receipts over the forward estimates are projected to be $227 billion lower than anticipated in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, without having made any decision but just as a result of parameter variation.
You seek to make the comparison with your period in government. Let me tell you: the GFC was nothing compared to what we're dealing with at the moment. The contraction in global growth was 0.1 per cent. We are dealing with a contraction in global growth 45 times as high as you were dealing with.
Can the Minister confirm that even before the pandemic he had overseen a doubling of gross debt and now leaves the role as finance minister with Australia's highest-ever debt level, peaking at a staggering $1.7 trillion?
What I can confirm for Senator Gallagher is what I've confirmed on a number of occasions before—that is, before the pandemic the gross debt and the net debt position under our government was much better than it would have been under Labor because we corrected the forward trajectory that we inherited from those opposite.
Senator Gallagher interjecting—
Senator Keneally interjecting—
I will forever be proud about the fact I played my small role in helping to repair the budget during our first six years in government, to the point where we returned the budget to balance and to the point where Australia was able to enter this pandemic from a position of comparative fiscal and economic strength. I know the Labor Party is not interested in this, but Australia went into this pandemic in a stronger position than just about any other advanced economy around the world and in a stronger position than we would have if we had stayed with the policy settings of those opposite. (Time expired)
Honourable senators interjecting—
My question is to Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham, and it's about something that is very, very close to my heart. Can the minister outline how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan will rebuild and create jobs in Australia's tourism industry?
I thank Senator Stoker for her question, especially as a senator from the great state of Queensland with its very strong interest in our tourism industry and with the number of tourism businesses across Queensland.
Our unprecedented scale of economic support for Australian businesses during the COVID recession, through programs such as JobKeeper and small business payments of up to $100,000, has sustained hundreds of thousands of jobs and tourism businesses across Australia. As part of our plan to ensure and secure the future of our tourism industry, the government has outlined an extensive range of supports to keep the industry going through these incredibly tough times. Importantly, last night's budget outlined a cash flow boost for companies with a turnover of up to $5 billion by allowing them temporarily, up to June 2022, to offset tax losses against previous profits and tax paid in or after 2018-19 through a temporary loss carry-back. This is an exceptionally important decision for many Australian tourism and travel businesses. It will help them in further cash flow support and is a crucial addition to other targeted measures that our government has undertaken.
On World Tourism Day, we announced a $51 million regional tourism recovery initiative to support some of Australia's most internationally reliant tourism regions, including in Senator Stoker's home state of Queensland. We have also announced a $50 million Business Events Grants program to get events, conferences, trade shows and exhibitions up and running again across the country. Our $100 million investment, at a minimum, in specific tourism infrastructure across our tourism regions will help regions to get through the tough times and to build back better. And our $231 million record funding for Tourism Australia will help to motivate the domestic tourism market and, crucially, position us well when we can safely welcome back international visitors.
The tourism industry has warmly welcomed a number of the measures across the budget. The Australian Tourism Export Council specifically welcomed the tax loss carry-back initiative, which it said will help to stem some of the flow of loss to businesses and support them through to the other side. The Australian Hotels Association said it will help hospitality businesses to expand and grow in the months ahead, and described it as a considered budget that will deliver comprehensive support. The Restaurant & Catering Industry Association acknowledged the work the government is doing to stimulate demand will help thousands of hospitality businesses to bring back young employees, and they describe the budget as a real recipe for recovery.
Equally, many individual businesses across the country have welcomed this, such as Matt Waller, the owner of Adventure Bay Charters in Port Lincoln, who, on ABC Radio, thanked the government for what we're doing and described the budget as an amazing opportunity for tourism businesses like his.
Our government has provided an unprecedented scale of support through JobKeeper, through small business payments and through the various other measures announced in last night's budget to support tourism businesses across the country.
It's crucial, though, that we see state governments step up as well. Indeed, I see the $51 million regional support package we announced, $20 million of which is headed to support internationally-dependent tourism regions in Senator Stoker's home state of Queensland. The Palaszczuk government announced a very similar initiative last Saturday, only it was worth just $5 million. We need to see governments do more across the states and territories in terms of their support for tourism industries. Equally, I saw Western Australia's tourism minister say the other day that there wouldn't be any rooms for visitors in Western Australia. Well, certainly, Tourism Accommodation Australia say that they have rooms ready to be occupied, and states and territories need to help to fill them. (Time expired)
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Women, Senator Ruston. Frontline domestic violence workers have been clear that the additional money provided for domestic violence services in March does not go far enough. Can the minister confirm that all the Morrison government's budget has offered to women fleeing domestic violence is a re-announcement of what they already offered in March?
Thank you, Senator McAllister, for your question. The answer is no.
This government has made an extraordinary commitment—an extraordinary commitment—to making sure that we support women who make the extraordinarily brave decision to escape domestic violence. As you would be well aware, Senator McAllister—or, you should be well aware—this government has a number of programs that are ongoing to support women who find themselves in the unfortunate position of requiring frontline family and domestic violence services. They include the $340 million that has been put towards the fourth action plan. Currently, we're in the process of consulting in relation to a further action plan, not only to make sure that we're dealing with the response which we have to undertake in response to women who find themselves in the situation where they're facing domestic violence but also to make sure that we're putting in place the things to make sure that we're preventing it into the future.
As you rightly pointed out—
It is a question of relevance, Mr President. I asked whether the minister would confirm whether all that was offered in the budget was a re-announcement. She has stepped through the re-announcements and done it again in this chamber, but I am really looking for a confirmation of whether there is anything new in the budget papers at all.
Senator McAllister, you've restated that part of the question but I can't ask the minister to answer it in certain terms as long as the minister is directly relevant. You mentioned yourself that the minister had been stepping through various announcements, my point being that that's a matter for debate. The minister is being directly relevant. Senator Ruston.
Thank you very much, Mr President. If the senator reads the budget papers she will see that there was actually a new announcement, which hadn't been announced before, in relation to the ongoing funding for Australia's national domestic violence hotline: 1800RESPECT. We believe that this is one of the most important resources for women who are escaping domestic violence, so that they can make sure that they have it on demand—
Senator Watt interjecting—
I'll take that interjection from Senator Watt—I think it was Senator Watt who interjected. It is not a re-announcement; it is a new announcement in relation to ongoing funding for the 1800RESPECT hotline.
But, as I said, this is in addition to the $150 million that was made available just to address the issue of domestic violence during the COVID pandemic, as well as the $340 million of ongoing funding in relation to— (Time expired)
As early as March this year, domestic violence services and refuges across the country warned the government of an expected increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. Why then has the government failed to deliver support to these women in last night's budget?
As Senator McAllister should know, the responsibility for the delivery of frontline services rests with the states and territories. We as the federal government provide the funding to the states and territories and, in addition to the ongoing funding, we've provided $130 million to the states and territories to support them in their support of women who are escaping domestic violence. In addition to that, we ran the Help is Here campaign, which very successfully provided advice to women who found themselves in need of support to find out where services were available to them and providing counselling and other support to women who found themselves victims of domestic violence during the COVID pandemic.
Only last week, Senator McAllister, we made the announcements in relation to the allocation of the funding for 40 new facilities to provide safe places for women who are escaping domestic violence.
Women over 55 are the fastest-growing group of homeless Australians, and yet last night's budget delivered nothing to address women's homelessness. What advice does the minister have for women over 55 who are facing homelessness and have been left behind by this budget?
This government takes homelessness very seriously. Equally, homelessness of older women is of particular concern. The federal government provides, in a normal year, $6 billion to support the states and territories in the delivery of homelessness and community housing projects to make sure that we are carrying our weight when it comes to supporting people who find themselves in need of housing. But this year, just for your information, because this is a demand-driven scheme, we will be providing $7.5 billion in support of social housing and homelessness initiatives to support the states and territories with the delivery of these frontline services to help all Australians but particularly to make sure that we are helping older women who find themselves in this particularly difficult situation as a result of the pandemic.
I'm seeking leave to table budget paper No. 2, which demonstrates the 1800RESPECT number to which the minister referred was announced in February, and ask her if she would like to correct the record now or later.
That is a different matter to the one you just raised. Is leave granted for that? Is leave granted to move a motion—if I'm correct, Senator Wong—to call the minister to make a statement to the chamber? Is that a correct characterisation? Senator Ruston.
In order to assist: Senator Wong, I don't believe that I did mislead the Senate. However, I will return to the Senate today and make any clarification or qualification should I have been incorrect.