Senate debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Statement and Documents

8:10 pm

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

I seek leave to have the opposition's 2020-21 budget reply speech incorporated into Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

My fellow Australians.

We live in a great country.

Amidst all the chaos and hardship that has shaken our world in 2020 - there is nowhere else we would rather be.

The credit for that, as always, doesn't belong to the politicians here tonight.

It belongs to the people of Australia.

We are coming through this pandemic because of their hard work, their sacrifices, their sense of community.

Their willingness to put not just their friends and neighbours, but people they have not met and probably will never meet, ahead of themselves.

Their values. Australian values.

That we look after each other.

And – it's that spirit, those values, which should define what happens next.

Because the challenge – and the opportunity – facing us now is not just a matter of getting things back to the way they were.

We have to aim higher than that, strive for more than that.

We have a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our economy and our country for the better.

To launch a recovery that delivers a stronger, fairer and more secure future, for all Australians.

This Budget fails the test.

The Budget reflects the Government's character of being guided by short term politics, not long term vision.

Our economy was already struggling coming into the crisis. Slow growth, flat wages, declining productivity, business investment going backwards, a doubling of debt.

Now they are cutting wage subsidies, slashing unemployment benefits back and have no plan for childcare, aged care or social housing.

This Budget leaves people behind.

Women have suffered most during the pandemic, but are reduced to a footnote. The best the Government can offer is they can drive on a road.

And if someone is over 35 they have certainly been left behind.

This week their wage subsidy was cut.

In March their wage subsidy disappears.

If they are unemployed they get $40 a day and are forced into poverty.

Then they will compete to get a job with people who will have their wages subsidised.

A quadruple whammy.

The Morrison recession will be deeper and longer because of this Budget.

Mr Albanese was brought up to look on the bright side.

His mother, Maryanne, was a great optimist.

She was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and other health conditions, which meant constant pain and long stints in hospital.

A single mum who raised him in public housing and relied on a disability pension, she did it tough.

But she always had a smile on her face, she never complained about her lot in life.

Like every Australian parent, her greatest aspiration - and the reason for all her sacrifice – was to make sure her child had a better quality of life and greater opportunity.

That aspiration for others has been on full display in 2020.

Volunteers fighting bushfires.

Healthcare workers fending-off a pandemic.

Cleaners and supermarket workers and truckies working around the clock to keep our economy going.

Teachers re-defining education, practically overnight.

Farmers and regional communities who had already copped drought and bushfires.

Small business reinventing themselves - and locals backing them in.

Trade unions agreeing to temporarily put aside hard fought industrial gains, to maintain jobs and keep businesses going.

Public servants reminding us of the honourable profession they belong to.

Australians rallying to help each other through tough times.

But if this crisis has reinforced what we know is good about our country…

…it has also revealed what is wrong with our economy.

The Budget figures tell the story.

An end to 3 decades of economic growth.

A million unemployed, with 160,000 more by Christmas.

A trillion dollars of debt.

Debt which had already doubled under this Government now 4 times that which the Coalition inherited.

And there were the damning silences.

Too many Australians are in insecure work - the first to be laid off, with low wages and few entitlements.

… and this Budget said nothing about that.

Too many women are shut off from economic opportunity - earning less and retiring with less.

… and this Budget said nothing to change that.

Too many family budgets pushed to breaking point by the cost of childcare.

… and this Budget said nothing to help with that.

Too many older Australians who built this country are being treated without the respect and dignity they deserve.

Too many older Australians are lonely prisoners of a broken aged care system.

Facilities run for the highest profits at the lowest standards.

A care economy workforce in childcare, aged care and disability care that is overworked and underpaid.

And Tuesday's Budget said nothing and did nothing about that.

How can the Government push the national debt to a trillion dollars and yet leave these fundamental problems unresolved?

Tonight, the Labor Leader, Mr Albanese, outlined how we can change this for the better.

How we can emerge from this crisis with a stronger economy and a fairer society.

The pandemic has shown that Labor's values of fairness, security and the power of government to change lives for the better are the right values in a crisis.

They are also the right values for the recovery.

Throughout this crisis, Mr Albanese and Labor have been constructive.

As the party that led Australia safely through the Global Financial Crisis, we understand, that in the middle of an emergency, the priority is on urgent action.

Still, we sought to make improvements including arguing for wage subsidies, which the Prime Minister rejected as "very dangerous".

We wanted casuals, universities and the arts to be included. This would have saved tens of thousands of jobs.

We warned of the damage caused by a smash-and-grab on superannuation, forcing desperate people to raid their own retirement savings while they waited for support to arrive.

We called for Telehealth and mental health support.

We backed the trade unions' call for the Government to introduce a national scheme of paid pandemic leave so no-one had to choose between turning up to work sick or putting food on the table.

Our constructive approach contrasts with the Coalition during the GFC which voted against the Rudd Government's economic stimulus to protect jobs – and complained about the debt they inherited which was one quarter of the debt created by the Morrison Government.

The only legacy delivered by this Budget is trillion dollar debt. A reform desert.

The decisions in this budget should be about setting Australia on a course for the next decade and beyond.

And when those decisions are wasteful, or unfair, or short-sighted or just plain wrong…then it's not the government who pays in the long run, it's the whole country.

Just look at the NBN.

The Liberals have wasted years trashing Labor's plan for broadband delivered by fibre to the home and business.

They went out and bought 50,000 kilometres of copper – enough to wrap around the entire planet – so they could build a slow, third-rate network that was out of date before it started.

Now instead of leading the world on internet speed, business connectivity and online learning, Australia is playing catch-up.

If we're going to come out of this recession stronger and fairer, then our country needs a plan to ensure no-one is left behind, and no-one is held back.

Our plan to take Australia from recession to recovery is this:

Rehire our workers.

Rewire our economy.

Recharge workforce participation of women.

And rebuild our nation.

Labor knows education is the key to opportunity.

Our schools, TAFE and vocational education and universities are vital national institutions.

And making sure a quality education is accessible and affordable for every Australian doesn't just open doors of opportunity for individuals, it makes us a smarter, more productive, more future-ready country.

And investing in education needs to begin at the beginning – with quality childcare.

We all know how much our kids change and learn and grow before they're at school.

Ninety per cent of human brain development occurs in the first five years of life.

What children learn at childcare is so vital for giving our kids the best possible start. But the current system of caps and subsidies and thresholds isn't just confusing and costly, it actually penalises the families it's meant to help.

Right around Australia, instead of childcare supporting families where both parents want to work …the costs – and the tax system – actively discourage this.

And - as is too often the case – it's working mums who cop the worst of it.

For millions of working women, it's simply not worth working more than three days a week.

This derails careers, it deprives working women of opportunities they've earned.

And it costs workplaces – not just day-to-day productivity but years of valuable experience and knowledge and skills.

If Mr Albanese is elected Prime Minister, he's going to fix this.

Tonight, Mr Albanese announced that a Labor Government will, from 1 July 2022, remove the annual cap on the childcare subsidy, eliminating once and for all, the disincentive to work more hours.

And we will increase the maximum Child Care subsidy to 90 per cent - cutting costs for 97 per cent of all families in the system.

And we will order the ACCC to design a price regulation mechanism that will ensure every taxpayer dollar spent flows directly through to savings for Australian families.

This is real reform. It will boost women's workforce participation, boost productivity and get Australia working again.

Building a childcare system that works for families will turbocharge productivity in workplaces, delivering a much-needed boost in economic growth of up to 4 billion dollars a year.

For Mr Albanese, the principle is very simple:

Early education is vital for our children's future.

And childcare is an essential service for families – and for the economy.

So our long term goal – and the mission we will set for the Productivity Commission which will be asked to report in the first term of a Labor Government – is to investigate moving to a 90 per cent subsidy for child care for every Australian family.

Labor created Medicare - universal health care.

We created the NDIS - universal support for people with disability.

We created superannuation – universal retirement savings for workers.

And – if Mr Albanese is Prime Minister – he will make quality, affordable childcare universal too.

This global pandemic has exposed the terrible damage seven years of Liberal Government has done to Australian manufacturing.

Mr Albanese doesn't want our country to always be the last link in a worldwide supply chain.

His vision is for us to have the skills and smarts and people and industry to make things here and sell them on the global market.

So, tonight he talked about Labor's plan for a Future Made in Australia.

A mass mobilisation of resources, an across-the-board strategy for:

- Job creation

- Training and skills

- Lower energy prices

- Infrastructure

- Government purchasing

- Manufacturing and construction

A plan to grow our economy out of this recession – and build for the future too.

The first policy Mr Albanese announced as Labor leader was to build on the success of the Infrastructure Australia model and create Jobs and Skills Australia.

This is about joining-up the needs of our economy now – with training opportunities for the future.

We have a shortage of nurses, welders, brick layers, engineers, and hairdressers.

Yet under this government, there are 140,000 fewer people doing an apprenticeship or traineeship than there were seven years ago.

We want to equip every Australian with the skills for a good secure job.

And we want to make sure every employer has access to a well-trained Australian workforce.

And right at the heart of our plan for skills and training is the great institution of public TAFE.

But there's more government can – and should – do.

Every year, the Commonwealth spends billions of taxpayer dollars on building and upgrading roads, maintaining railways and repairing bridges.

To deliver maximum public value for money, Labor will create an Australian Skills Guarantee.

On every major work site receiving Federal Government funding, one out of 10 workers employed will be an apprentice, a trainee or cadet.

These common sense measures will train tens of thousands of workers.

We will also consider how this principle can be extended to Federal Government subsidised sectors like aged care, disability care and childcare in co-operation with providers.

And we'll bring the same approach to defence acquisitions too.

Over the next decade, there is $270 billion of defence spending on the books.

These investments in national security should also deliver a dividend for national skills, training, research and manufacturing.

A Labor Government will implement concrete rules to maximise local content and create local jobs.

At best, the Liberals' approach is all over the shop when it comes to Australian content.

Remember when one of this Liberal Government's Defence Ministers said he wouldn't trust Australians to build a canoe?

Australians will never forget that it was this Government that drove Holden, Ford and other car makers out of Australia, taking tens of thousands of jobs in auto manufacturing, servicing and the supply chain with them.

This wasn't just dumb and devastating in the short term.

Cutting down the Australian auto industry also cut Australia off from the next round of opportunities, dealing us out of a new wave of technology that could have been made in Elizabeth and Altona and Geelong but instead is being made in Detroit and Tokyo.

It's the same at a state level.

Liberal Governments have consistently said we can't build trains here.

And yet the ones they've bought from overseas have been too long for our stations, or too narrow for our tracks, or too tall for our tunnels.

Last December, Mr Albanese visited the Downer EDI site in Maryborough, Queensland, where skilled Aussie workers are refitting rail carriages purchased from overseas by the former Newman LNP Government.

This work is being done in a factory that's been building quality trains since the 19th Century.

Our country has the skills and the knowhow. What's missing is a government that believes in manufacturing and has a plan to deliver.

Tonight, Mr Albanese announced that a Labor Government will create a National Rail Manufacturing Plan.

We will provide leadership to the states and work with industry to identify and optimise the opportunities to build trains here in Australia - for freight and for public transport.

Labor will invest in the skills and research and training to kickstart the next generation of Australian manufacturing jobs.

And we'll deliver the affordable, reliable energy to power industry into the future.

The Liberals have had 22 energy policies in 8 years.

And all they have to show for it are higher electricity prices and higher emissions.

Australia can do so much better.

We can be a renewable energy superpower, with clean energy powering a new era of metal manufacturing and hydrogen production.

Labor has a clear target to tackle Climate Change - net zero carbon pollution by 2050.

Every State and Territory Government - Labor and Liberal - supports this goal.

The Business Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Energy Council and the National Farmers Federation agree on it.

Qantas and Santos and BHP and a host of other major companies all back it too.

Everyone but the Morrison Government, which is frozen in time while the world warms around it.

Of course, there's a lot more we can do right now to make energy more affordable.

Australia's electricity network was designed for a different century.

For a time when solar panels ran pocket calculators, not the 1 in 4 households which have rooftop solar.

The current network takes no account of the rise of renewables as the cheapest new energy source, and doesn't help link these new sources up to the national grid.

A Labor Government will tackle this head on.

We will establish a new Rewiring the Nation Corporation to rebuild and modernise the national energy grid.

By using the Commonwealth's ability to borrow at lower interest rates, it will be done at the lowest possible cost.

The projects needed to rebuild the grid have all been identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator's Integrated System Plan.

The planning work is done.

Rebuilding the grid will create thousands of jobs – particularly in regional Australia - and deliver up to $40 billion in benefits.

Fixing transmission is technology neutral and will allow the market to drive least cost, new energy production.

Reforming childcare, rebuilding the National Energy Grid and revitalising Australian manufacturing are at the heart of Labor's plans for job creation over the next decade

But in the middle of the first recession in 30 years – we know Australia needs a plan to create jobs, right now.

One of the fastest ways to lift economic growth and get tradies back on the tools is to invest in social housing.

There's 100,000 social housing dwellings around the country that are in urgent need of repair.

The roof leaks, they're full of mould or damp, the plumbing isn't up to scratch.

If these were MPs offices they'd be fixed overnight.

These are people's homes – and they're a job creation plan ready and waiting in every city and town.

Tradies could be ordering from suppliers today, they could be on site, tomorrow.

And the pipeline of work doesn't stop at existing houses that need fixing.

There are new houses that need to be built too.

200,000 Australians are on waiting lists for social housing.

Mr Albanese grew up in public housing.

He knows when someone does not have much, having a roof over their head provides security and makes all the difference.

So many economists have identified investing in social housing as the best way to provide immediate stimulus to the economy.

It would create thousands of jobs in construction and the trades…

…and just like for Mr Albanese's mum, it would give thousands of people a better life.

The pandemic has exposed Australia's vulnerability.

This has particularly impacted the elderly with more than 670 deaths in aged care, in a system described by the Royal Commission in their one word title of the Interim Report issued last year, as "neglect".

This Budget has done nothing to address this neglect and nothing to ensure aged care residents have enough nurses, carers and other staff that they need and deserve.

The Royal Commission declared last week there was still no plan for aged care.

It is also the case that our pandemic preparedness was poor. The last national pandemic preparedness exercise was run by the Rudd Government in 2008.

A Labor Government will establish an Australian Centre for Disease Control to bring us into line with other advanced economies.

On Tuesday night, Australia needed a plan to seize the economic opportunities of the next decade.

We are, after all, located in the fastest growing region of the world in human history.

Instead, we got an incoherent grab bag, fixated on the photo opportunities of next week.

And that's the defining flaw of this government – and this Prime Minister.

They think an announcement is the end in itself.

Always there for the photo opp, never there for the follow up.

We see it time and time again.

Remember the "Back in Black" mugs they were selling last Budget, ahead of delivering the biggest deficit in Australian history?

Perhaps the mugs should have said "dirty deeds, done dirt cheap".

When we look at the waste and the grift and the pork barreling exposed by the Australian National Audit Office that's had its funding cut in this Budget as payback.

The Sports Rorts scandal

The $30 million paid for airport land that was worth just $3 million …

Two years after announcing they would support a National Integrity Commission, the legislation is as visible as a Morrison Government surplus.

A Labor Government will deliver a national anti-corruption commission to restore faith in our democracy.

In seven years, the gap between what they've promised on infrastructure – and what they've delivered – is nearly $7 billion.

They turn up, they turn over the first sod and years later weeds are growing on the empty lot.

And in spite of a Budget drowning in red ink, there were no new game changing infrastructure projects funded.

As Australia's first Infrastructure Minister, Mr Albanese knows what a missed opportunity this budget represents.

Then there's the Emergency Response Fund.

This $4 billion fund was created in the aftermath of the catastrophic bushfires with $200 million available each financial year from 2019-2020.

It's for recovery, as well as resilience in the lead up to bushfire seasons.

Not a dollar has been spent. Not one.

This week Mr Albanese spoke to Zoey Salucci in Cobargo.

The Prime Minister should remember her. She was the young pregnant woman who had lost her home and asked for more help for the Rural Fire Service. She was reluctant to shake his hand.

Zoey's son Phoenix turned 6 months old this week, named after the Greek mythological bird that obtains new life by rising from the ashes.

When Phoenix was born, Zoey, her husband and their two year old daughter Uma, were still living in a van. She despairs that so many of her community are still living in temporary caravans on land that is yet to be cleared.

Yet the $4 billion funding announced remains untouched.

That's why the true test of this Budget isn't this week's headlines.

It's not the rhetoric or the promises.

It's whether money reaches the people who need it.

Australia is at a crossroad.

It's not of our choosing but the choices we make could change everything.

This is an opportunity to reset and renew.

There was a time when the average wage let an Australian buy a house. When secure jobs with sick pay were the norm.

Before the balance tipped so far one way that ordinary people were left vulnerable.

Let's use this opportunity to get the balance right again.

Let's put security back into work – so that people don't have to choose between their bank account and their health.

Let's transform childcare so that it's affordable and accessible to every family.

Let's fix our aged care system so that it's driven by dignity and care, not profit.

The choices we make now will define who we are in the future, so Australians should ask themselves – what sort of country do they want?

Do we want to return to the same work insecurity, the same cuts to TAFE and unis, the same 2nd rate services for the bush, the same stale arguments over climate change?

Mr Albanese wants us to do better.

He wants a country that makes things, creates wealth – and shares it.

A country where the next generation inherit opportunity and prosperity – not debt and doubt.

A country which respects our farmers and miners in the regions and our cleaners and musicians in the cities.

A country that respects those who've come across the sea to enrich our society – and one that recognises the privilege of having the world's oldest continuous culture and recognises First Nations people in our Constitution – and gives them a Voice to this Parliament.

A country where – when the going gets tough – government is on the Australian people's side.

That's the Australia Mr Albanese believes in.

That's the better future he wants us to build together.

The year 2020 has been the year from hell.

But during this calamity we learnt a lot about ourselves. And about each other.

A man called Tom Uren was the closest person in Mr Albanese's life he had to a father figure.

Tom fought in World War 2, he spent his 21st birthday as a Japanese prisoner of war on the notorious Thai-Burma Railway.

He never talked much about what he went through.

But he always said Australians survived because of a simple code:

The healthy looked after the sick, the strong looked after the weak, the young looked after the old.

Those values are at the heart of what it is to be an Australian.

And those values are why Mr Albanese is optimistic about our country's future.

Because just as our people have rallied to each other and risen to the challenges of this pandemic.

Mr Albanese knows Australians can seize the opportunities of the recovery, seize the chance to rebuild and renew our country.

But people can't do it on their own.

Mr Albanese's mum battled a ton of adversity to give him opportunities she never had.

But government played a part too: it put a roof over their head, it gave him an education and a start.

That's why Mr Albanese wants to be Prime Minister.

Because he knows government has the power to break down barriers of disadvantage, to change lives for the better.

He's seen it. He's lived it.

And that's what Labor's plans are all about.

Creating jobs for today – and training our people for tomorrow.

Making quality child care a right for all, not a luxury for some.

Rebuilding our manufacturing sector.

And powering our recovery with clean energy

Tonight, Mr Albanese talked about how we can make this once-in-a-century crisis the beginning of a new era of Australian prosperity and Australian fairness.

With the right plans, the right policies – and the right leadership – Mr Albanese truly believes our country can make this moment our own.

Strength and fairness.

We can beat this recession, we can launch a recovery and we can build a future where no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.

8:11 pm

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

I rise tonight to make a contribution in budget week as National Party Senate leader, noting that today the Deputy Prime Minister handed down a regional statement about how our government budget affects and supports rural and regional Australians, the seven million of us who live, work and love our regions right across our country. What we handed down today, and what he spoke about today, was how this budget shows our government standing with regional Australia through its most difficult time. We started 2020 with bushfires and by coming out of drought. We were then hit by COVID-19. Our government makes a commitment, through the measures outlined in this budget, to stand with them as, together, we face COVID recession. It's a plan that outlines our opportunities going forward and is reminiscent, I think, of the courage and leadership shown by the Menzies-McEwen government post-World War II. I just want to reflect for a moment on the words of Sir John McEwen, Country Party leader during that period:

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that is not only self-sufficient in food and important raw materials but has an export surplus in these things. We have a sophisticated workforce and a sophisticated field of management that enables us, in a highly competitive world, to continue to grow as a manufacturing country. It would be a great mistake if our manufacturing potential were to be neglected or underestimated. So, considering our self-sufficiency in food and materials, our capacity for industrial growth and our tremendous land area capable of absorbing additional population from around the world, I look forward with a high level of confidence to the future of Australia.

These words were said by 'Black Jack' McEwen half a century ago, and it was his vision for our country following a war—leaving Britain behind, taking in immigrants who were fleeing from war-torn Europe. How do we build a nation that is independent, sovereign and prosperous? It is by securing our national security and our economic security, and he chose to do that through pursuing a policy of full employment. If you look at our budget measures handed down this week, they do too. The McCormack-Morrison government are actually pursuing budget measures that seek to get more Australians back into employment, because we know that is how to drive an economy, and to ensure our economic security and our prosperity going forward.

'Black Jack' McEwen's vision of and high confidence in a strong and prosperous future for Australia is something that we, in the Nationals, absolutely share, and we fundamentally believe the regions are going to be key to achieving that. As Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack outlined today, this week's budget delivers economic security because it delivers jobs, and more than half of those who lost their jobs are already back to work thanks to our measures. The government estimates the economy will recover over 950,000 jobs over the next four years because of the measures—a whole suite of measures across a raft of portfolio areas—delivered on Tuesday night.

Madam Deputy President, 2020 has been a year like no other and now is the time for vision: a sound plan based on sound principles that puts our national sovereignty at its centre. The Nationals in government are investing in regional people and regional businesses. We know that $32 billion in cash flow will boost around 800,000 small businesses. More than 99 per cent of businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion can write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase for their business. This is great for them, but it's also great for the suppliers in their local communities that provide those products. This has been a singularly popular measure. I've heard about it over the past two days as farmers and small businesses call in to our offices to say: 'Thank you. It's been tough. This is a real and tangible practical measure that's going to help us pay our bills. That means other businesses keep employing people, but it also will allow us to keep our employees on the payroll.'

The Nationals in government are delivering a record $110 billion in transport infrastructure programs and a $3.5 billion rolling water infrastructure fund to support local jobs and businesses. If you don't come from where we come from, you might not get the relationship between access to water and jobs, productivity and local growth. It is absolutely fundamental to us. With the resilience capacity of our local community and population and with the skills and knowhow grounded in the deep, lived experience of our farming communities, all you need to do is add water out in the regions and we will be a $100 billion ag industry in no time. Just add some workers, Senator McCarthy and Senator McMahon, to get those mangoes off! And we're working on that as well.

As someone who is quite excited about the legacy of Black Jack and the contribution he made and our party made through that period to our national economy and security, I'm getting quite excited about our renewed focus on advanced manufacturing. There is $1.5 billion handed down in this budget over four years for our Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Settle down everyone! This is not 21st-century protectionism; it's actually backing our natural capabilities: food, fibre, minerals, forestry—what a wonderful sustainable industry forestry is. This is around six particular key areas: resources, critical minerals, food and beverages, medical products—we've seen some great examples of this out in regional communities in my home state of Victoria, like Shepparton, where they're actually turning their hand to that PPE task quite quickly—clean energy, and defence and space.

We're not wanting this across the board; we're actually wanting to make sure that we are competitive in the areas where we already have a unique competitive advantage. What I love about it is that in over half of these areas of strategic importance the primary product is based in the regions. So the smart thing is also to have that value-adding piece out in the regions too. We need to make Australia make again. We need production lines humming. We did it post World War II. This is a budget that seeks to help us recover in a similar way with a similar sense of optimism and the building of confidence right throughout our community. I'm confident that we can do it. We must focus on our sovereign manufacturing capability. What the pandemic has actually exposed is the fragility of so many supply chains across the globe. I'm really excited about ensuring that we make here at home again things that we might have outsourced—things that are fundamental to ensuring we can feed ourselves, we can keep ourselves safe and we can actually plan with renewed focus on the future.

I'm very proud to be part of a party in government that is a specialist in one thing and one thing only: working for rural and regional Australia and making sure that those seven million Australians have a proud and very loud voice here in the Senate, in the House and within government to ensure that our road to recovery from COVID-19 backs the regions and backs their natural advantages, and I know that together we can get through this.

8:19 pm

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

This budget has been delivered in truly exceptional circumstances. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has hit us hard, but the pandemic has also exposed many pre-existing fault lines in our economy and in our society: insecure work, poverty, privatisation, social isolation and underfunded public services. These times, and this budget, may well be defined by a global pandemic, but even before any of us had heard of COVID-19 we had massive challenges facing us, and those challenges remain today. The earth's climate is breaking down around us. We are living through a mass extinction event. Nature is being destroyed at record pace. The ecological systems that our economy and our society rely on are in crisis.

In economic terms, we are also in exceptional circumstances. Interest rates are at the lowest rate in the history of the Federation. Globally, interest rates are at the lowest level in recorded human history. Borrowing money has never been cheaper. Australian households are now carrying more debt than they ever have, and Australia's level of household debt is second in the world only to Switzerland. Yet despite people borrowing more money than ever, more cheaply than ever, homeownership rates are going through the floor. In Australia, homeownership rates are now back to where they were in the 1950s. This is not because people don't want to earn money. Workforce participation is at the highest rate it's ever been. More people than ever are putting their hands up for a job. But wages growth is at the lowest rate since the Australian Bureau of Statistics started keeping records on it in the 1950s.

So we've got wages growth at record lows but we've got the proportion of national income going to company profits at record highs. The end result of all this is that wealth inequality is entrenched, it's significant and it's rising. Record low interest rates, record high household debt, falling homeownership, record workforce participation, record low wages growth, record high company profits, rising wealth inequality—this is what we faced before we entered a global pandemic, and this is what 40-odd years of naked neoliberalism has delivered. More and more people are getting less and less, despite making a greater and greater effort. Meanwhile the big corporations and the super wealthy who own and run them sit back and pocket ever bigger profits and amass ever greater wealth.

Neoliberalism rewards wealth more than it rewards effort. It is a system where the rent seekers rule. It's a system that, instead of repaying the biggest workforce in our country's history with the standard of public infrastructure and public services that a prosperous nation such as ours should share and enjoy, has privatised and deregulated. It's a system that's created gouging monopolies that pay exorbitant dividends to the wealthy few and, at the same time, forces millions of Australians to take on paralysing levels of private debt just to keep their heads above the water. This is a system where if you're not amongst the chosen few you must, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, run as fast as you can just to stay in place, and to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. This is a system where the game is rigged.

Undoubtedly COVID-19 is the trigger for the recession that we're in. But this recession and the pathway to recovery will be made monstrously more difficult for the vast majority of Australians because of the four-decades-long neoliberal assault on the spirit of our country through privatised public utilities, outsourced public services, a mad obsession with budget surpluses, a deregulated industrial relations system, a deregulated financial sector, trade deals that diminish the sovereignty of our country, manufacturing forced offshore, a property market rigged in favour of the speculators, and massive tax breaks for miners and polluters who are pillaging our common wealth and cooking the planet. All of these have been deliberate policy choices of successive Australian governments, starting with the Labor Party, under Hawke and Keating, and supercharged under the Liberals. They have chipped away at the social fabric of our country. They've rewarded the individual at the expense of the collective. They've rewarded capital at the expense of labour. They have wound back the clock on much of the progress that was made in the middle of the last century towards a more equal society and a more shared prosperity.

Thanks to neoliberalism, we entered the pandemic with an underfunded healthcare system, with an underfunded and privatised childcare system, with an underfunded, privatised and barely regulated aged-care system, with an underfunded education and training system, with 40 per cent of our workforce in insecure work, with entrenched high rates of unemployment and underemployment, with a social safety net set below what people need to survive, and with the most overpriced housing in the world. The pretence of more competition and more choice delivering some kind of market nirvana for people was always a con. Neoliberalism has done to this country what it was always going to do: concentrate wealth and widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots. And all of this has been facilitated by the two major parties that sit in this place today and by an all-powerful financial industry which is a rapacious parasite on our country that has hollowed out the real economy and left behind nothing but a fragile shell. This is why the cheapest money in history is no longer enough. We are truly through the looking glass.

In the face of all this, we've got this year's budget. So how does it stack up? Is it a turning point? Is it a not-since-wartime budget? Is it a whatever-it-takes budget? A budget that builds a nation? A budget that gives hope to people? Is it a budget that offers us the hope that we so desperately need that we can live good lives and respect nature and climate? No, of course it's not—not from this Prime Minister, not from this Treasurer, not from this government. This budget is a neoliberal train wreck that will impoverish poor people, steal hopes and dreams from young people, entrench wealth inequality, entrench unemployment and underemployment, and line the pockets of the big corporates and the super rich.

Don't believe the government's budget hype. This budget does nothing to change the structure of the Australian economy or the underlying social, human and natural problems this structure has created. It perpetuates the same old failed, trickle-down, crony capitalist, fake economics rubbish that is simply about big corporations and the super-rich gorging themselves on the hard work of others and rigging the rules to suit themselves. The only difference this time is that it's neoliberalism on tick. But don't be fooled by a new-found tolerance for government debt, because this budget seeks to protect and project the same old neoliberal ideas.

The government could have used this budget and increased the debt to invest in a shared future, providing the infrastructure, the income support, the jobs and the public services needed to create a cleaner, fairer and more equitable future. It could have used the debt to create jobs in renewable energy, reforestation and rewilding, helping reduce emissions, restore ecosystems and draw down carbon from our atmosphere. But instead it chose to use the debt to further rig the system so that the big corporates and the super-rich can keep making off like bandits while millions of Australians will endure the kind of hardship and poverty that nobody, and I mean nobody, in a nation as rich as ours should ever have to suffer—hardship and poverty that will scar for a lifetime, hardship and poverty that is a stain on our country's history.

This is a bloody great budget for coal companies and gas companies. It is a magnificent budget for the banks. It is a bonanza for the arms manufacturers. This is a budget by the government's mates, it is a budget for the government's mates and, boy, does this budget deliver for the government's mates and for the government's political donors. But if you are a young person, if you're renting, if you're a woman, if you're First Nations person, if you're unemployed, if you're underemployed, if you're struggling to pay the bills, if you're worried about the climate crisis or if you're worried about the biodiversity crisis, this is not a budget that offers you the hope that you so desperately need.

This budget continues to ignore women. There is no new money to make child care accessible, there is no new money to build affordable public housing and there is no new money to fund frontline domestic violence services, despite 37 women having been killed by violence already this year and rates of domestic violence having increased since the start of the pandemic. Its main selling point—tax cuts—will deliver twice as much money to men as they will to women.

People working in arts and entertainment were some of the first to be hit by the social-distancing requirements. The sector has suffered tremendously through the lockdown and will be one of the last to recover. It is a sector that gives so much spirit to life in this country, yet the Treasurer could not even find it within himself to utter the word 'art' in his budget speech earlier this week. Arts and entertainment workers were largely excluded from JobKeeper and many are now faced with trying to survive on $40 a day on JobSeeker. Clearly, the $112 billion a year arts and entertainment sector does not matter to the Morrison government.

Universities have been literally decimated by this crisis. A full 10 per cent-plus of their workforce is gone, and what's the government's response? Slash support, deliberately and on multiple occasions exclude them from JobKeeper and massively hike the price of getting a degree. There is no new money in this budget for environment conservation and effectively nothing to help protect our threatened native species and natural ecosystems in the middle of the sixth great mass extinction event in our planet's history. There is no serious action to close the gap, a shameful betrayal of promises made just four months ago. Meanwhile, the surveillance state will continue to grow, our rights and liberties will be further eroded and more power will be concentrated into the dangerous hands of the Department of Home Affairs.

This budget also turns Australia's back on the world's displaced people. It cuts Australia's humanitarian intake and refugee intake by 20,000 places over the next four years. What is happening to this country?

This budget gouges almost $1 billion of support for refugees and people seeking asylum, and gives its straight to the big corporates and the super wealthy in tax breaks and $99 billion every year in corporate welfare. And with more than a dash of good, old-fashioned xenophobia and racism, this budget, shamefully, introduces an English language dictation test for partner visas. I'm hearing echoes of the White Australia policy. There is no funding in this budget for the desperately needed federal anticorruption watchdog, and the Liberals have taken revenge on the National Audit Office for exposing sports rorts by slashing its funding.

The centrepiece of this budget is the bringing forward of the stage 2 tax cuts, supported by the Australian Labor Party. That will see millionaires get 2½ thousand bucks a year extra in their pockets and the working poor get 250 bucks a year in their pockets. The unemployed can line up for their regular kick in the teeth; they will get nothing, because a tax cut is worth nothing to you if you haven't got a job. Don't be fooled by the spin. The additional offset for low- and middle-income earners is a one-off; it'll be gone in a year's time. There's a temporary boost for the millions and a permanent boost for the millionaires. And stage 3, which will arrive in four years time—unless it's brought forward in the meantime—is even worse. By that point, the top 10 per cent will be getting 50 per cent of the additional benefit. Stage 3 was voted for by both major parties in this place when it was legislated. Under both stage 2 and stage 3 of these tax cuts, tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit high-income earners, men get twice the benefit women get. These tax cuts will further entrench gender inequality and further disrespect the massive contribution women have made and continue to make to our country.

Borrowing money to give the wealthiest Australians tax cut is, obviously, patently unfair. But it's also really bad economics. There is nothing Keynesian about using the public purse to enrich the already very wealthy. There is nothing smart about tax cuts that leave behind young people, unemployed people and women. These tax cuts will not create jobs. These tax cuts will not trickle down. These tax cuts will not work.

How do we know they won't work? We tried them last year and they didn't work. Last year, when increased tax offsets landed in people's bank accounts, household incomes rose by the highest rate in a decade. But, in the same quarter, household consumption grew by what was then the lowest rate in a decade. Even before we were in recession, people were saving; they weren't spending, because the economy was already stretched to breaking point, as were so many household budgets.

And now that we're in the middle of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, people will obviously do the same again—and more. And fair enough, too! In the face of insecure work, low wage growth, high levels of household debt, high unemployment and massive underemployment, it's the natural thing to do. The point is that tax cuts won't do what the major parties say they are going to do. The money will not make its way out into the economy. The tax cuts simply will not work. And we know that trickle-down economics is one of the world's great political cons: the people at the bottom are dying of thirst waiting for a few drops to reach them. If low- and middle-income earners weren't spending before COVID hit and weren't spending before we got into a recession then high-income earners certainly won't be spending in the middle of a recession. What will happen is that high-income earners will accumulate yet more wealth by buying more shares or paying off the mortgage on their investment property.

It's also worth remembering that this is the third consecutive budget where this government has put forward some version of these tax cuts, going further and faster every time. The first two times around, it was the magical impending surplus—which didn't last long, mind you—that supposedly enabled the tax cuts. The third time around, there is not a surplus in sight and yet here are the tax cuts again. What this shows is that these tax cuts are ideological, pure and simple. Surplus or no surplus, pandemic or no pandemic, deficit or no deficit, debt or no debt, this government is always going to let the wealthy accumulate more wealth. And here's a newsflash for you: tax cuts are of absolutely no benefit if you don't have a job.

Instead of giving tax cuts to millionaires, we should be helping the millions of Australians who are unemployed and underemployed. JobSeeker must be permanently increased so people, all people, can lead a dignified life. Money given to people who need it not only is the right thing to do but will get spent in our economy. If this government cared about its people and cared about the state of the economy, this budget would make sure that those whom this government seems content to confine to joblessness have a chance to live with some dignity.

But this government isn't content with just helping out the millionaires and the superrich. This budget also extends $99 billion a year in corporate welfare. It doesn't matter to the government that companies in Australia are already extracting record profits. It doesn't matter that the share market has already recovered most of its losses. It doesn't matter that one in three of the biggest corporations in this country pay absolutely zero tax. It doesn't matter, because apparently the big corporations need yet more corporate welfare and yet more help from the public purse—Liberal mates, Liberal donors.

What of the climate emergency? This government would rather the country burned than upset the most favoured of Liberal donors, the fossil fuel industry. The so-called gas-led recovery is nothing other than an abomination. It's been designed by hand-picked gas company executives who want to turn our country into a petro state. The International Energy Agency has spelt out that there is no room for any new carbon-emitting energy source if the Paris targets are to be met. But this government could not care less. Colleagues, we're not headed for a gas led recovery; we are just being gaslit. That's what's going on in this budget.

Budgets are about choices, and these choices that are made in budgets reflect a government's priorities. The Australian Greens reject this government's choices and its priorities. We reject neoliberalism in whatever form it comes. The Australian Greens want to build an economy that works for people, not the other way around. We want to build an economy that respects nature, that respects our ecosystems and that respects our climate and doesn't see our natural places merely as resources to be dug up and burned and profited from or as dumping grounds for toxic chemicals, carbon and pollutants. If we can remake our society to protect us from a virus, we can remake it to look after everyone, to look after climate and to look after nature. The Greens' plan responds to the magnitude of the challenges we face and the three intersecting crises: the pandemic, rising wealth inequality, and the climate and biodiversity emergency. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

Our plan is built around a government backed jobs and income guarantee that would ensure that everyone has the income they need to live with dignity. It will also get us back to full employment as quickly as possible. No-one should get left behind, and the Greens' plan ensures that no-one will be. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

Our plan is built around massive government investment in health, in education, in public and active transport and in the whole range of public services that people need and want, delivered at a high quality. It's built around massive investment in manufacturing and renewable energy—far beyond that which is included in the government's budget. These will be the building blocks of a fairer and cleaner economy. We can't afford not to do this. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

Our plan is built around our Create Australia strategy—a jobs-rich plan for the creative industries in our country, underpinned by a commitment to get artists into our schools and libraries and a decent kickstart to get more Australian content onto our screens and live performances back to our stages. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

And for young people—who, as with all recessions, are copping the brunt of it—our plan is built around a next-gen guarantee: free education, a living income and a guaranteed decent job, if you want it. Our nation's future depends on trusting in and believing in the next generation. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

With the money that this budget commits to tax cuts we can have a green recovery that creates hundreds of thousands of good, decent and well-paid jobs, ensures everyone has an income they can live on and creates a clean, strong and stable economy. We can set everyone up to live a good and dignified life while we respect nature and our planet's climate. A plan to do this is not just possible; it's necessary. This is a choice that our parliament can make.

I'll sign off with a quote from Sir David Attenborough, made only hours ago: 'Nature will flourish when those that have a great deal perhaps have a little less.' Thanks, David. The Greens couldn't agree more.

8:47 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to respond to the government's budget, handed down earlier this week. It's a post-COVID budget. It's a budget that takes us from a predicted $11 billion surplus for this year to $213.7 billion of deficit. Gross debt was expected to be 27 per cent of GDP in 2019-20. Gross debt is now expected to be 44 per cent of GDP at 30 June 2021 and to increase to 51.6 per cent of GDP at 30 June 2024. I am just describing the environment.

The government has announced a wide range of revenue measures, reducing tax receipts whilst at the same time spending up big. Spending big might be appropriate as we recover from COVID—as long as money is spent effectively. Spending money is easy. Spending money wisely is a much harder thing to do.

I'm not going to present an alternative plan. That's not the role of an Independent. My job is to give honest commentary as to what I've seen presented by the government. I've decided that I'm not going to talk about what's in the budget, however. I'll have plenty of opportunities to do that as implementing legislation comes before this chamber. Tomorrow, for example, I'll speak on tax related matters in the bill that is currently before the Senate and the subject of government business. Rather, I want to talk about what's missing in the budget. I want to talk about this because COVID brought us the opportunity to sit back and examine how things could be different on the other side of the curve. But that opportunity has been squandered by government—a government without vision or brave thought. They have just delivered same old, same old approaches: tax cuts, instant asset write-offs, tax concessions, spending on this and spending on that. Even having engaged the NCCC, a body of purported visionaries, we still don't have anything visionary that's come out of that particular forum—a forum that has cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

Let's go to revenue. Revenue will fall by $55 billion in this financial year and $283 billion over the four years to 2023. That's revenue based on a number of widely optimistic assumptions. The budget makes the assumption that there are not going to be any second or third COVID waves. Basically, it relies on a vaccination being fully in place by late 2021. We've heard the government talking about vaccinations, and their optimism—talking about dates and then having to slip them, and then slipping them again and then slipping them again. At the COVID committee I asked about the logistics of rolling out a vaccination across Australia—who would be first, who the priorities are and how the vaccination would be dispatched across Australia. The government certainly doesn't have that well planned at this point in time. The reality is that vaccinations take time. We can be very optimistic, and I have no problem with being optimistic, but I prefer the approach by the philosopher Seneca, who said, 'Hope for the best but plan for the worst.'

One of the assumptions in the budget is interesting. In fact, I went back to 2019-20 and saw that the Treasury's estimates for the price of iron ore were $55 per tonne, FOB. I then looked at what this budget said and, amazingly, it said that they predicted the iron ore price would be $55 per tonne, FOB, by the end of the June quarter in 2022. I don't know if this is a cut-and-paste error. I acknowledge that $55 a tonne is in fact a conservative number, but it leaves me questioning the modelling assumptions in relation to the economic outlook—modelling assumptions that simply are not spelt out in detail in the budget. Again based on assumption is the number of jobs—there is no detail as to how the government came to the figures that are being used in the budget. We have to accept those on blind faith.

Still talking about revenue: I would have thought that this crisis would have been the opportunity to engage in significant revenue reform, but it's completely absent. Simplifying the tax system with a few broad-ranging taxes would have been good—personal income tax, corporate tax, private consumption or GST and economic rents from natural resources and land. It's the Ken Henry model. That's the sort of thing we could have been doing to simplify things. Of course, we would still retain taxes for special purposes—things like tobacco taxes to encourage people not to smoke and also perhaps taxes around traffic congestion. Instead, we will retain a complex tax system with other state taxes, job-killing taxes such as payroll tax, not being addressed.

In terms of tax cuts, that is in the budget, but what is missing is any analysis as to whether or not they're affordable. I say that having been through a comprehensive process the last time we looked at it and as a crossbencher having the special privileges of access to Treasury and having examined exactly what was going on inside Budget Paper No. 1. The argument at that time presented to me was: 'We are on the verge of a surplus. Now is the right time for tax cuts.' It turns out now we're at a $213 deficit, and it's the right time for tax cuts! So I'll just put on the record that I have reservations about these tax cuts. This entire chamber will vote tomorrow on tax cuts, blind as to any analysis of whether or not they're affordable.

Senator McKim talked about tax minimisation. Has that been addressed? There's nothing to address the 220 companies that had revenues of $850 billion over five tax transparency years and paid no tax—$850 billion of revenue and they paid no tax. Companies like ExxonMobil last paid corporate tax in 2013. Over the five years 2013-14 to 2017-18, they had $42 billion in revenue, with no corporate tax paid. They told the Senate economics committee in 2018 that the company wouldn't pay corporate tax until 2021. They spent $10 million fighting the tax office in relation to tax. The interesting thing is: on the verge of them suggesting they will pay tax, what are they doing? They're leaving the country. They're selling out of the Bass Strait and leaving the country. They've come in here, they've taken all of our oil and gas, they've paid very little in PRRT and they're leaving the country. What mugs we are! I'll contrast that with what Equinor does in Norway. In 2018-19 they paid taxes of $22 billion. They also paid a revenue to the state, because it's state owned, of about $3 billion. These are huge amounts of money, and that's just one example of how to do it right. We do not do it right here in Australia when it comes to rent resources tax.

Lendlease: five years of tax transparency data show that they've had $43 billion in revenue and have paid not a brass razoo in tax. And we're rewarding them. This year we've given them over a billion dollars of defence contracts to build facilities at Osborne, HMAS Watson and HMAS Stirling. They're not alone. Origin Energy: $59 billion and only $108 million tax paid. Ford: $14 billion and no tax paid. Virgin: $23 billion and no tax paid—but they certainly asked for a handout during the COVID crisis! How do you think most Australians feel when they're listening to the budget? Sure, they're going to get a tax cut, but mums and dads, nurses, tradies, bus drivers and all of those sorts of people are paying their fair share of tax, and you've got companies earning tens of billions of dollars paying no tax at all. It's not right, and you're not doing anything about it. There's nothing in the budget that seeks to address that.

There's no digital tax, so we've got Facebook and Google—one might argue essential utilities—creaming money out of this country, taking it, offshoring the money and paying very little tax. And what's the government doing about it? Nothing. There's nothing in this budget.

I'll turn to grandfathered large proprietary companies—that old chestnut. I know you don't like me talking about it. There are 1,119 companies—privileged companies—that don't have to lodge financial reports with ASIC. ASIC has testified to the Senate that that encourages aggressive tax minimisation. When we ask the coalition why it hasn't dealt with this, there's no policy reason as to why this loophole through which these companies don't have to file their financial returns to ASIC is acceptable or useful. Nothing is being done about that.

Going back to the PRRT, it's just not working. We are giving away our finite resources, and there is no fix in the budget for that. And even when those companies do pay tax and they do pay PRRT they can get it back when they shut down their assets here in Australia. They can draw back off the PRRT they've paid to help them shut down their facilities. They come here, they set up, they write off all of their capital investment, they don't pay a brass razoo for the resources and then they charge us on the way out. Seriously? That's Liberal economic management? There is nothing in the budget to fix it.

How do I know about that little PRRT arrangement when companies leave the country? It's because we've got an example of it playing out right now in the Timor Sea. The Northern Endeavour, an FPSO, a floating production, storage and offtake vessel, was sold by Woodside to a company called NOGA. The Commonwealth basically drove that company into liquidation. I say that because it's on the record. Before NOGA went into liquidation I warned NOPSEMA and I warned the minister that this was going to happen. They were driven into liquidation. That means there's an asset out there, Northern Endeavour, that is the responsibility of the taxpayer. We paid $28 million in 2019-20 to operate this vessel in lighthouse mode. The budget tells us there will be another $47 million for this financial year. We have this uncontrolled cost and no explanation as to how we're going to deal with this vessel that was owned by Woodside. The bizarre thing is that we're now actually paying consulting fees to Woodside to try and sort the mess out. At the same time, we've got Exxon departing Australia. They've got JP Morgan trying to sell their ageing assets in Bass Strait. They'll sell them, and we'll end up in the same situation where the taxpayer ends up operating those stranded assets in lighthouse mode.

I'll turn now to spending—education and training. I do welcome the VET spending and the apprenticeships, but we all know about the higher education funding and how damaging that is going to be for Australia, for our students and for our future. And there is no money for TAFE.

Then I look at our procurement policies. What we should be doing post COVID is directing government agencies to clause 4.7 of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. I know that particular clause because I helped negotiate it into the Commonwealth Procurement Rules back when the ABCC negotiations were going on. That clause requires officials to look at the economic benefit that flows from a contract: How many jobs does it create? How much capital investment is there in Australia? What's the supply chain effect here in Australia? The clause is in the Procurement Rules. It hasn't been used. One of the first contracts we saw going out in the COVID crisis, when we suddenly hit the realisation that we don't have much resilience, went to Amazon—AWS—instead of Australian companies. I don't know if you know how angry that makes Australian taxpayers.

We should be learning post-COVID about reliance. What we've seen is supply chain shortages as a result of COVID. The interesting thing is that it's passive disruption to our supply chains. It's not like people are trying to stop goods getting to Australia; they're just not getting here. Imagine if we were in a conflict situation—and there is a possibility that might occur—where there was active disruption. Do we see that being addressed? Not through this budget. We're exposing ourselves. We haven't learned.

Then we look at things like defence spending. I know better than most people in this place that we need a strong Defence Force. I understand how it works. I understand its role and its deterrence role. I understand—as much as we would never like to see them used—the importance of having well-trained, well-equipped forces. But I look at some of the projects that have been commissioned by this government. Take the submarines. I'm a former submariner; I like submarines and I think they offer extremely useful military capabilities. But we've got a submarine project that has gone from $50 billion in 2015 to $89 billion. Our Hunter class frigates have gone from $30 billion to $45 billion. So, whilst we're dealing with a huge deficit and a crisis that we're trying to manage, we've got basically no-one doing anything about a $54 billion blowout. Most people don't understand what $54 billion is. To make it clearer, that is 54,000 million dollars. That's the blowout. Has the government looked to address that? No. They say, 'That's okay; we'll just get a billion dollars off our universities and our students.' They've got no idea on how to fix that problem. They remain silent. It's incompetence.

And of course we've got a total lack of AIC commitment—commitment to use Australian industry in those programs. We've seen the percentages for the future submarine. They are shocking percentages, well below 50 per cent despite the 90 per cent promise by the Liberal government. We chose a submarine designer and we restricted ourselves to one supplier, and that supplier is now exercising its commercial advantage, charging us as much as it likes along the way. These are not my words; this is the Auditor-General criticising that particular decision, that there is no competition there. The French are going to European companies that they're used to working with and they're purchasing through their normal supply chains. What a bizarre situation. We have a battery company in South Australia that's been working on Collins batteries for as long as they've been in service—since the mid-nineties—and what are we doing? We're making them compete against a Greek company for the batteries for the future submarine. Really? I can't believe it.

In the budget, we have $1.5 billion allocated to manufacturing. That is totally inadequate. We know that manufacturing creates jobs, we know that manufacturing generates IP, we know that it builds resilience into our supply chains, we know that it helps with export and we know that it helps with our balance of payments, yet we give the manufacturing sector $1.5 billion; that's it. At least we've seen a reversal of the terrible, terrible concept associated with the R&D tax bill that the government was going to pursue. Let me give you a tip: after COVID, we need R&D. But we also needed it before that. I welcome the change but it shows ineptitude.

I am pleased the government have allocated $15 million to build transmission towers in Whyalla for our interconnector—first the South Australia-New South Wales interconnector and then moving on to other transmission towers. That is a good thing. That $15 million will create 180 jobs and will repatriate work back to Australia, using Australian steel. It is a fantastic program that costs $15 million. I wonder whether we test some of the other measures against that sort of result. I do thank the government for that.

But there is nothing in the budget dealing with value-add. In this country we have to stop just exporting rocks, stop taking our iron ore and sending it overseas and stop taking our lithium and sending it overseas. We don't consider the value in conducting these sorts of activities here in Australia. In 2025 we're expecting the lithium export market around the world to be somewhere around the $25 billion mark. Batteries will be in the trillions of dollars. We should be investing in that sort of capability and that sort of value-add here. This is not a criticism, but the problem is that the Liberal Party looks at things and says to Australian companies, 'We need to have minimum wages, we need to have occupational health and safety, we need to have environmental standards and we need to have Australian standards in our products'. They are good things; I don't suggest that we shouldn't do that. But having imposed all these costs on Australian business, we then look overseas and the products are cheaper for some reason. So we buy the cheaper product from the countries that don't have minimum wages and from the countries that don't have environmental standards and have substandard products.

We have to start changing the way we think. Electric vehicles—I'm glad to see there are some charging stations, but we're not doing enough in that space. I congratulate the government for $5 million allocated to a company that will build electric vehicles out of South Australia; that is a great thing. Again, with $5 million seed funding, we will get an industry that will grow from that with up to 2,400 indirect jobs.

We have an extra $10 billion for infrastructure in the budget. Most people would think that is a good thing; however, what people need to understand is these contracts will go to tier 1 construction companies and, in Australia, there are no longer Australian owned tier 1 companies; they are all foreign owned. What's going to happen is the government will award contracts to the tier 1s, not the tier 2s, and those companies will squeeze the Australian supply chain. Most of those companies come from Spain. They will go back to Spain, and they will take products from Spain, because they know those products, and include them in the infrastructure. They will squeeze so much from the Australian companies to make a profit and then they will send that profit offshore. We need to rethink this. We need to make sure that tier 2 companies, the Australian companies, are priming these infrastructure projects. Things must change in that space.

The Space Agency—failure to launch. There is some additional funding in the budget for the Space Agency. We have a space industry that is charging ahead. I was up in Ceduna watching the launch. Unfortunately, it couldn't go to 100 kilometres because the Space Agency is unable to issue launch permits. It can't keep up with industry. The space industry is bringing the work to Australia, and these international companies are leaving because we can't get a launch permit—unbelievable!

We need to think about a national endeavour, perhaps a constellation of satellites that could monitor bushfires. We need to think about national endeavours. That's what we want to have in the budget.

Social housing is missing from the budget. The government likes to talk about affordable housing through a private investor model, but that hasn't worked. We need to think about social housing to tackle homelessness and to revitalise the construction industry.

On energy, let's start looking at things in an engineering light. We set the goals—clean, reliable and affordable—and let the market do its work. Everyone's talking about trying to bring gas prices down. Well, here's a hint: get the gas from the inexpensive sources. We have so much gas here in Australia; there is not a shortage. But what's happening is that companies are sending it overseas. All the inexpensive gas from the Cooper Basin is being exported and we're being left to pay the high wellhead prices. This is a policy failure not addressed in the budget.

And then we come to women. They are massively overrepresented in COVID job loss figures, but this has not been addressed. There's no long-term reform to child care. Where's the funding for domestic violence and legal services? Minister Ruston's response in relation to this is, 'Women can take advantage of driving on new infrastructure and roads, so to suggest the budget doesn't focus on women is wrong.' Seriously? That's the policy—as a woman, you get to drive a car? The next idea coming from the Prime Minister will be to reinstate the old rule where a man with a flag has to walk in front of a woman when she is driving! That's going to create jobs! That's the next idea—I can just see it! Aged care is missing as well. The 23,000 new home-care packages fall woefully short of the 100,000 that are needed.

As I wrap up, my favourite topic, which is dear to my heart, is oversight and accountability—cutting the Auditor-General's budget as retribution for the good work that they've done in disclosing maladministration. There is a shrinking budget for the ABC. They can't recognise the fire coverage they had. They don't recognise the value of their journalism. ICAC is missing. There is no vision in this budget. It's a bit like the Governor-General's speech—which was not the Governor-General's speech, it was the Prime Minister's speech. There is no vision in it. There is no growing the pie. There is no making the pie tastier. We have lost huge opportunities in this budget.

9:18 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

The value of independence in the parliament isn't to play dress-ups. We don't get elected to be you guys; we get elected to be everything but. No matter how hard you try to keep this place to yourselves, we're here. And we're here with a mission. We get a seat at the table to talk about things you wouldn't otherwise talk about. We can force issues into debate. If we're going to do that, I reckon we should deal with the issues that aren't getting discussed.

There is plenty in the budget that I have no issue with at all. I just want to take a couple of minutes to say a few things about what I'd like to see more of. These times of crisis are a chance to reset. We have an opportunity here to use the emergency response to get the country on a path that is better than the one it was on before. We don't just want to go back to where we were; we want to aim higher. We should be sorting out the problems that we've been letting drift for way too long and thinking about how we want things to work when we get back to normal. We should be looking for ideas for the country that we never could have considered possible before, and deciding to do things that we've been putting off for too long.

The enormous spending measures in this budget are a chance to use the huge amounts of money that we are borrowing on behalf of the country to build a future that looks very different from our past. It is a chance to take a step back and look at what's been working for the country and what's not been going so well—and there is plenty of that. It's time to wipe the slate clean and say, 'Let's build something new that will last beyond this crisis.' You don't get a free pass to spend $100 billion very often. You don't get a get-out-of-jail-free card on $1 trillion of debt very often. It takes a global pandemic for people to go, 'Yes, that sounds fair enough.' It takes a national shutdown for the rest of us in this place to see the government going for that and let it slide. That kind of money is enough to completely reshape our country and the way our economy works. When you've got that sort of opportunity ahead of you, there is a lot you can do with it. The choices you make reflect what your true priorities are. They show who you put first and who you will put last. They show what you think Australia should look like 10 years from now.

I'd have made different choices about how to spend that money. First of all, I wonder whether the government are actually putting enough into the economy to get us out of this mess in the first place. There are going to be more people out of work because of this crisis for years, and the people who are lucky enough to have a job won't see their wages go up for a very long time. The assumptions that underpin the Treasurer's pictures of where we are going to be in a year from now seem pretty rosy to me. For one thing, he's assumed that we will have a population-wide vaccine by the end of the year. Dear oh dear! I don't know what vaccine he's been taking, but I can tell you now that vaccines take decades to be developed, tested and manufactured. Then they have to be distributed so everyone is covered. Honestly, if the Treasurer thinks he is safe banking on all that happening in 12 months, he is living in la la land. He seriously is. He reckons that once we get a vaccine people will go back to spending money, building houses and coming to Australia like normal. It's a pretty big gamble to take. If it turns out he's wrong, he might wish we'd put in some more economic support to stand us in better stead through the next year at the very least. So while I understand that Australians out there are worried about the debt, I think there's more the Treasurer should have put into this budget to keep the economy rolling.

The first thing I would have put in is more for social housing. The only party that has not agreed with that is the government. It's absolutely bizarre that the rest of us can see it. The government has been looking the other way from people who don't have a safe place to sleep for far too long. With the Treasurer going on a $74 billion spending spree, I would have thought he could find some coins down the back of the couch to do something about that. Building a few thousand new homes would take a dent out of the huge waiting list for people to get into affordable housing, which has been growing across the states and territories for more than a decade. The government wouldn't just be helping people to get a roof over their heads; it would help people get back into work and give them stability. Ask just about any economist in the country about what the Treasurer should spend money on to get the economy moving, and they will tell you that social housing is a sure bet. It's a sure bet. When the government goes in and directly builds houses, they are employing tradies, keeping the construction industry going and getting that money straight into local businesses. It's much better than building a new road or train line, because you can roll it out really fast and you know the finished product will be put to good use.

I know the Treasurer would say that social housing is a problem for the states, not his party, but honestly, that's a real cop out. It is the coalition's favourite thing to say when they are faced with a problem that they can't be bothered to fix but which makes sense to fix. It absolutely makes sense to fix this. I would say to them it's about time they showed some leadership and got this done. They are perfectly capable of it. The federal government has run this show before, and we all know they can do it again. All it takes is the will and the courage to make it happen.

The same goes for our TAFEs and our manufacturing sector. I'm glad that the Prime Minister has finally woken up to the fact that we need to start making things in Australia again. That's a start. But don't talk the talk on this one with me, Prime Minister; I want to see you walk the walk. I can tell you: if ripping off our students is any guide for the future then I don't hold out much hope for our TAFEs. So my question is: where's the commitment? Where's the follow-through? You talk big on supporting trades, but there's nothing in this budget to fix up our crumbling TAFEs. We've got kids trying to get their cert IIIs in rooms with broken windows and no heating. They're working on machines from the Cold War that are older than we are in here. At my local TAFE, toxic paint fumes rise up through the holes in the floorboards where kids are doing nursing courses. Kids all around Tassie are being trained in rooms full of asbestos, because we can't afford to fix them up. Where's your commitment, Prime Minister? You can't manufacture without skills. You need to get those skills from TAFE.

I wanted this manufacturing plan from the PM to lay out how we're going to fix this stuff. I'd hoped it meant we'd get some real reform for vocational education in this country. Surely it's obvious that we aren't going to kickstart our manufacturing industry if the people who want to do a trade can't get the training they need to get onto a work site in the first place. Instead, we got $7 million a year for the organisation that pays Scott Cam a six-figure salary to put up a few flashy videos about trades on social media. Honestly! Our TAFEs are allowed to apply for 'some' funding to offer free short courses for school leavers and jobseekers. That's it? That's as good as it gets?

Our TAFEs need more leadership and they need a hell of a lot more than what you are offering, which is nothing. We're going nowhere. They need the Prime Minister to stand up and figure out how to get our vocational education sector back up to the job of training our kids for the jobs that we will need to rebuild our economy. That's what I'd spend some money on. That's where my priorities would be. I figure you're not doing that, because you actually don't have a plan for the future. If you can't start at the basics and tell our kids who want trades what trades are going to be available, then I tell you what: you have no bloody idea. I don't actually believe you have an idea or a plan for manufacturing or building in this country. I don't think you are actually capable of it, and I'll call you out for it now.

Do something about JobSeeker. We're in October. The extra money for people on JobSeeker ends in December, 2½ months from now. People on the dole are looking at going back to eating noodles, missing bills and not being able to turn on the air con through the middle of summer. We haven't even got to the May budget yet, when they're going to need their heating. I imagine that by then they'll be living with blankets from Vinnies. Instead of giving people on JobSeeker any idea about how much money they'll have to live on next year, we're pouring cash into the pockets of people who have managed to keep their jobs and do quite well through the crisis. That's the answer to it.

I'm not saying those tax cuts won't help; maybe they will. I see the value in letting people keep more of the money that they earn, and I guess some of it will get spent to help the local economy move again. But the people who get the most benefit are the people who are lucky enough to still have a job. They've made it through the previous six months with their careers intact and their pay cheques full. They don't need it as much as the childcare workers and the home carers who got the boot from their jobs when the community went into lockdown back in March. Anyone can see that it would have made a lot more sense to spread that money out the other way. We all know that people on the lower end would spend it more. The money would be going straight into their local communities and their local economies, not their bank accounts.

I would have put more into veteran hubs for our ex-service men and women who need a place to go when times are getting tough. There are already centres in Townsville and Brisbane. The people who rely on them say they're magic. They work by bringing together veteran service organisations and advocates under one roof. They are a one-stop-shop; they save lives. That's what they do. Once again, here's the veterans minister: 'Yes, we want hubs; we're promising, promising.' It's like a horse race, isn't it? It just comes to a halt. It's all over red rover and we never get to the finish line, do we, Minister Chester? Shocker! These hubs are not hard, and there is no excuse for not having every single one of them in a state by now. You've had more than enough time. There are no more excuses, apart from the fact you're incapable of getting the job done. Maybe it is time you went elsewhere. Go to another department; bring someone else in who can actually get the job done, because you are certainly not getting the job done for veterans.

These hubs create a community space for at-risk veterans to put their hands up and ask for help. If you think spending $26 million a year for the next four years—it's certainly not going to be enough for our veterans to get the help that they need, and $64 million won't touch the sides in the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The problems there are so big. It's not money that we need, mate, it's management. It's structural reform that we need. If you can't see that, Minister Chester, then, once again, you're in the wrong department, mate—get out! Throwing money at the problem, like we do every year, isn't going to be enough to stop veterans from being let down by a department that fundamentally does not put their interests first. The department is more interested in covering its arse, and that's exactly what it does. It's an institution that has lost its way, but it's not there for veterans.

Now, the ALP might have a crack at the government for debt and deficit. They've got to attack someone for something, so that's fair enough, but if it takes $1 trillion to save 25 million people from losing their jobs, homes, savings and safety nets then spend it. If it costs more, spend more. Spend more! It'll save us in the long run. You can't give me any moral justification for refusing to spend taxpayers money to protect taxpayers from losing all their money. Don't get me wrong, you can spend in good ways and you can spend in bad ways. I'm not saying spend for the sake of it, I'm just saying that it's pretty cynical to attack the government over debt and deficit to try and undermine their reputation for economic responsibility, particularly if sometimes economic responsibility means spending huge amounts of money to keep the economy from falling off the cliff. It's irresponsible to let the economy collapse just so that you can run a surplus. Nobody's receiving a letter of termination from their boss and thinking to themselves, 'At least the government's in surplus.'

If we're going to spend huge amounts of money, if that's what it takes to keep us afloat, we've got to match unprecedented spending with unprecedented transparency. Just like pollen brings bees, cash brings lobbyists. If money is being spent, you can bet anything that there will be donors, mates and lobbyists stepping over each other to get a slice of the pie. The more money we're spending, the more we need to give people confidence that we're spending it right. The good news is that's easily sorted. Don't cut money from the ANAO. The Australian National Audit Office need that money. As a matter of fact, you should be putting more staff in there, you should be smashing them in there so that there's some sort of oversight in this parliament! They're the guys who are out there every week, slapping government ministers across the chops for misusing taxpayers money. They spotted the sports rorts, so this is their punishment. You take cash off them and say: 'Hey! We're going to get less of you guys.' They called out the government for spending $30 million on a plot of land worth 10 times less than that. Who does that? Goodness me! You call yourselves great economists over there. Who got ripped off? No, not you people but the taxpayer. The ANAO are pretty much the only independent check that we have on the way the government spend money and run projects. They asked the government for an extra $6 million this year so that they could keep their heads above water. Instead, guess what the government did? They cut 14 million bucks! Oversight up here is gone. It's finished! It's over. It's very scary, but that's the truth of the matter.

Don't end it there though. Fixed donation laws and real-time disclosures: if you've got nothing to hide then let's do it. But, oh no, don't mention that to the coalition. Jesus Christ, they'd go white and nearly faint! No, nothing about donation laws here. There's nothing to see. Count up how much people donate over a fixed period and make them disclose their donations if they go over a low threshold. It's not that hard. Change the lobbying rules so that everyone who comes into this building looking for something has to play by the same set of rules. Punish them if they break those rules. You need punishment; if you don't punish people the problems will continue. If you don't set an example when people play up and you don't discipline them then the problems will become worse. This one might be a little niche, but if the non-government senators in this place want to inquire into something the government is doing then the government shouldn't get to vote against it. They should go through without debate. It wouldn't cost them anything and it's simple to do. What's wrong with them?

I know we've been talking big numbers since the virus first hit us in March, and the amount of money that we're shovelling out the door in this budget is hard to comprehend. To put it in perspective, last year the government told us that they couldn't afford to pay $5 billion to raise Newstart by 100 bucks a week. They told us that it would be irresponsible for them to start paying people enough to live on because it would risk their 'back in the black' surplus. Well, how is that going now? The stimulus measures in this budget are worth 20 times that. It's enough money to completely change the way this country works, and since we'll be paying it back for decades it's a shame we aren't spending it, once again, on the right things and, once again, on those who are less fortunate.

I think that between now and the May budget we're going to see exactly what the coalition is made of. I'll be honest: I actually don't hold out much hope, because what I've seen since I've been here is a lot of rhetoric and a lot of talking the talk and very little walking the walk. The government cannot continue to spend money—they cannot just throw money out there—and then turn around. When you do something you have to follow it through. They have to make sure that money is actually doing its job. That's what they have to do—that's what good managers do. That's how it works; that's leadership. If we don't see that in this country then all that money they're throwing out there is going to be wasted, and it's the taxpayers' money—it belongs to them. The government has to start following through for the sake of this country. Every dollar counts! Every dollar! I don't want to see my grandchildren having to pay for this, but I can guarantee they will. And their kids are probably going to be paying for it too. It shouldn't be that way.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.