Thursday, 8 October 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator McLachlan for his question and also for his very strong support for the South Australian defence industry and more generally.
Protecting our nation's security and sovereignty is essential to Australia's economic stability and also its prosperity. The 2020-21 Morrison government's defence budget is all about a safer and stronger Australia now and into the future. This government remains firmly committed to keeping Australians safe while protecting our nation's interests and also assisting our economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. This budget sees sustained and very strong investment in Australia's defence, with a 10-year funding model of $575 billion over the next decade. This delivers on the Morrison government's commitment to grow the defence budget to two per cent of GDP in the 2020-21 financial year. This achieves a commitment we made in 2013.
Our focus in the budget and in our strategic update is on regional security, on maintaining our capability edge while creating Australian jobs. It also focuses on boosting cyber-resilience and supporting Australia's sovereign defence industries. This budget locks in $270 billion of investment over the next 10 years to continue to develop the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force. There is also a $1 billion investment that provides new and unprecedented opportunities for Australia's defence industry, which has been impacted by COVID-19. This will sustain over 4,000 Australian jobs. Also, Defence is committed to supporting Australians right here at home during emergencies of national significance. That's why the Morrison government is strengthening the ADF's ability to respond to natural disasters, to domestic emergencies and to pandemics both here in Australia and overseas.
I thank Senator McLachlan for that question. Continuing to develop Australia's sovereign defence industry is crucial to our nation's economic recovery, and also, as I've said, to the creation of many more multigenerational jobs for Australians. Currently there are already over 15,000 Australian companies in the defence supply chains. That represents over 70,000 Australian workers who are benefiting from our government's investment in defence. These numbers are continuing to grow even during the COVID-19 pandemic. South Australia is a key part of the government's investment in building Australia's maritime defence capability and also our defence industries. Just last week the Prime Minister was in South Australia opening the $535 million world-leading shipyard in Osborne South, which heralds the beginning of another local shipbuilding job boom in South Australia.
As I've said many times in this chamber, the Australian strategic environment is increasingly complex and it is also increasingly contested. That's why this government's unprecedented investment in defence capability and also long-term funding certainty that we have committed to in this budget is vitally important. It is not only important for the Australian Defence Force and for defence; it is also vitally important for all of Australia's defence industries. This 10-year investment of $575 billion, as I've said, includes $270 billion for new capability which will strengthen not only the capability and the resilience of the Australian Defence Force but also our industries and provide many tens of thousands of jobs right here in Australia. This government is delivering the much-needed certainty for the Defence Force, and the result of that will be that our defence forces will not only today be postured to deploy military power to shape our environment, to deter actions and also to respond— (Time expired)
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Women, Senator Ruston. Approximately 200,000 women have lost their jobs since March and 110,000 have left the labour force. Why did Mr Morrison's budget provide nothing to support women's workforce participation?
I thank Senator Keneally for her question. I would actually refute that the budget brought down on Tuesday night by Mr Morrison and the Treasurer, Mr Frydenberg, didn't contain anything in relation to women's workforce participation. In fact, the very substance of the Women's Economic Security Statement is around enhancing women's economic participation. We all know that, prior to the pandemic, economic participation by women in the Australian workforce was actually at an all-time high and we had also seen the gender pay gap reduced to its lowest level ever. So as part of the Women's Economic Security Statement on Tuesday night, we sought to undertake a number of initiatives that are really focused on making sure that we provide specific and particular initiatives around workforce participation. But that must exclude the fact that many, many other initiatives in the budget that were not contained in the Women's Economic Security Statement are also available for women to access.
Those opposite can be mucking around, but the reality is that women are able to benefit from just about every single measure in the budget. Women benefit from university educations, women benefit from workplace and employment programs; I mean, Senator Cash's skills programs also benefit women. But targeting specific women's economic participation was the Women's Economic Security Statement. There are a number of initiatives contained in this statement, with five very specific priorities to build and repair women's workforce participation and to further close the gender pay gap. That was absolutely the specific reason for and the absolute priority of the Women's Economic Security Statement, along with many other measures in the budget.
Recent studies by KPMG and Grattan reveal women returning to work can lose 20 cents for every dollar they earn from an extra day's work due to childcare fees. Why did the Morrison government's budget fail to make child care cheaper for Australian families?
What I would say is the Morrison government has a very proud track record when it comes to the affordability of child care for Australian families, particularly for Australian women seeking to return to the workforce, and there is a very, very important component to make sure that women's workforce participation is at high levels. As I said in the answer to the primary question, before the pandemic Australia's women's workforce participation levels were at an all-time record. I would also draw to the attention of the chamber the fact that this government, the Morrison government, will spend in this 2020-21 year $9 billion supporting Australian parents with childcare subsidies. That is in addition to the $900 million that was specifically set aside during the pandemic to help Australian parents through the very, very difficult circumstances that they all found themselves in during the pandemic, particularly those people who were taking on important care and support roles.
Women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, taking on two-thirds of the unpaid care work at home. Why, despite racking up $1 trillion in debt, is there no assistance to help get these women back into the workforce?
I would once again refute the premise of the statement that was just made by Senator Keneally that the government is not doing a number of things to assist all Australians, including Australian women, back into the workforce. As I said, there's an absolute record investment in child care to enable them to get back to work. Investment has been made in the portfolio area of Minister Cash around making sure that we focus on reskilling. In the Women's Economic Security Statement, as an example, there are a number of initiatives that focus specifically on empowering women, getting women into leadership roles and making sure that women are able to—
As I was saying, in the Women's Economic Security Statement there are a number of initiatives that particularly target making sure that we are providing the support for women to be able to get back into the workforce, get ahead in the workforce. We're expanding and boosting the female founder initiative, a fantastic initiative that's already under way. The paid parental leave— (Time expired)
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. The arts and entertainment industry was the first and hardest hit by COVID restrictions. It will be one of the last to recover. It has seen the second-highest number of job losses, after accommodation and hospitality, which, of course, rely on the arts and entertainment sector as well. For every million dollars in turnover, arts and entertainment produce nine jobs. Construction produces only one. Yet the Treasurer on Tuesday night didn't even utter the word 'art' in his speech. Why has the $112 billion a year arts and entertainment industry been so forgotten by your government?
Far from being forgotten, because the arts and entertainment industry was one of the first and hardest hit, it was one of the first to get support from the Morrison government. The Morrison government are working hard to deliver on our plan to support the arts and entertainment sector during COVID-19. We have secured almost $800 million in extra arts and entertainment funding on top of our record annual investment of around $750 million in core funding and on top of the $336 million provided to date through JobKeeper. During one of our nation's most testing times, Australians have looked to our leaders to provide accurate and honest information, provide support to those who need it and to manage public money responsibly and that is, of course, why our government has provided very substantial support to this sector, and it would be great if senators across the chamber could recognise that very strong commitment and contribution that we've made.
The German government has pledged one billion euros in response to this crisis; the UK government, 1.57 billion pounds. France extended its unemployment scheme for actors, performers, musicians and technicians, guaranteeing the pay for 1.3 million people. Senator Cormann, how will your ignoring of the arts play in your bid to become Secretary-General of the OECD?
Let me just reconfirm—I'm sure that our friends in France, nos amis en France, and our friends in Germany, unsere deutschen Freunde, would be very impressed to see the very serious commitment that the Morrison government has made to supporting the arts and entertainment sector here in Australia. Of course, every country and every economy deals with the challenges it faces in its own way, consistent with its capacity. We are doing the best we can in the context of what is clearly a very challenging situation, and I think that all reasonable Australians and all of our friends across the OECD would very much agree with that.
It's mostly women who work in the sectors that have been hardest hit—hospitality, retail, and the arts and entertainment sector—yet the Morrison government has largely left them out. Minister, do women matter, and has Tony Abbott's 'women's problem' infected the Prime Minister?
Of course women matter. They matter very much. Under our government, under the first six years of the Liberal-National government, we had the highest workforce participation of women ever on record. The gender pay gap was the lowest ever on record here in Australia, after six years of a coalition, a Liberal-National government.
Of course, women and young people have been particularly hard hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but women and young people have also, proportionately, been the biggest beneficiaries of the recovery getting underway. Our plan to get Australia out of this COVID recession, our plan to maximise the strength of our recovery, our economic and jobs recovery, is very much going to be beneficial to all Australians and, in particular, women and young people around Australia. They will proportionately benefit the most from the strong recovery that our government is working on.
My question is to the Minister for Finance, probably my last question to you in question time, Senator Cormann. I know you'll miss me! I refer to analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs based on data from the Morrison government's budget and the ABS, which reveals that gross Commonwealth government debt will peak at $2.05 trillion in 2045. Is this analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs accurate?
I thank Senator Gallagher for that question. I think Senator Gallagher wanted to make sure that, before I left this chamber, I truly had seen everything. I now have, with the shadow minister for finance quoting the Institute of Public Affairs! That is exhibit A! The answer to that question is, no, I can't confirm that analysis. The Labor Party is trying to suggest that we can't make projections 10 years out, and Senator Gallagher is now suggesting that somehow there is a capacity to make projections 35 years out. The argument that the opposition is prosecuting right now is that we should spend more and that we should have a lower deficit and lower debt, as if that is totally consistent!
We are facing a very challenging set of figures. We are, though, in a better position than most other countries around the world as a result of the hard work that we've done during our first six years in government. The reason your figures weren't worse after six years of Labor government is because you started with a surplus, no government net debt and a positive net asset position. Guess what you left behind for us? You left us massive debt and deficit and a deteriorating trajectory. We have turned that situation around. We are in a better, stronger position than we would have been if we hadn't fixed the situation you left behind. Every reasonable Australian knows why we're here when it comes to the fiscal position we are in, and that is because of the COVID recession and the impact on the COVID recession on revenue, in particular, and government payments, and because of the cost of the decisions we've had to make to support the economy and to support jobs.
The analysis by the IPA also revealed that gross Commonwealth government debt will not be paid off until the year 2080. Can the minister confirm that a child born today will be 60 before the Morrison government's record $1.7 trillion of debt is paid off?
in the future because of the hard yards that our government did in the first six years in government to repair the budget and to strengthen the economy. A child born today will be in a better position, have better opportunities to get ahead, because of our plan to get Australia out of this COVID recession, because of our plan to create jobs and because of our plan to maximise the strength of the economic and jobs recovery. People across Australia know that if we had not stepped up earlier this year young people today and into the future would have been worse off, would have faced a more challenging environment and would have found it harder to get ahead. It is as a result of our hard yards in our first six years in government and through this coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus induced recession—it's because of our work—that young people today and into the future will have the best possible opportunity to get ahead.
I've got to say I'm quite impressed by Senator Gallagher's optimism about the Morrison government in 2046. I commend her for her optimism that we will still have good government, good Morrison government, in Australia in 2046, and, let me tell you, the Australian economy will be stronger and better for it.