Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Statements by Senators
Last night, the Treasurer handed down the 2022-23 federal budget, which delivers Australia's plan for a stronger future: cost-of-living relief now; a long-term economic plan which creates jobs; record investments in essential services; and stronger defence and national security. This is a budget which delivers for all Australians. The government recognises households are facing cost-of-living pressures as a result of the invasion of Ukraine and ongoing global supply chain issues from COVID, so, as part of the budget, we've announced some very significant cost-of-living measures which will be delivered as temporary and practical support for households right across this nation.
For the next six months, Australians will save 22c a litre every time they fill up their car. A family with two cars who fills up once a week could save around $30 a week or around $700 over the next six months. This cut in fuel excise, which took effect from midnight last night, will flow through to the bowser over the next two weeks. This temporary reduction in fuel excise will not come at a cost to road funding, very importantly. We will see more than $12 billion spent in the coming year on roads.
There's a new one-off $420 cost-of-living tax offset, which will benefit more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners. Taxpayers who are already receiving the low- and middle-income tax offset will now receive up to $1,500, and couples up to $3,000, from 1 July this year. There is a one-off new $250 cost-of-living payment which will be delivered within weeks to six million Australians. Pensioners, carers, veterans, jobseekers, eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders will all benefit. Together with existing indexation arrangements, this will see a single pensioner receive more than $500 in additional support over the next six months, just when they need it the most.
Very proudly, the Morrison government is helping more Australians to own a home and to combat and deal with housing affordability. Of course, we have HomeBuilder, the First Home Super Saver Scheme and the home guarantee scheme. But now, in the budget, there is a doubling of the home guarantee scheme which will provide 50,000 places a year. This will help single parents to buy a home with a deposit as low as two per cent and will help more homebuyers to buy a home with a deposit as low as five per cent. I know this is going to be very much welcomed in the region I represent as patron senator for the electorates of Bendigo, Ballarat, Corangamite, Corio and Gorton, all very fast-growing areas. Many are moving to these regions, and they are looking for that additional support.
There's a new $2.8 billion investment to increase take-up and completion rates as part of our skills investment, and we'll be providing a $5,000 payment to new apprentices and up to $15,000 in wage subsidies for employers who take them on. There will be $3.7 billion to support an additional 800,000 training places.
Of course, small business is a massive recipient of the measures in our budget. We know small and family businesses are the absolute lifeblood of our economy right across this nation, employing nearly eight million Australians. From budget night, for every $100 spent by a small business on training, those businesses will receive a $120 tax deduction—120 per cent. Of course, this will drive more resilience and more jobs right across the nation. We're also backing small businesses which are embracing the digital revolution by providing the same tax deduction for investments in digital technologies.
Local manufacturing—a very big passion of mine—of course receives a huge shot in the arm, with a wide range of investments to drive collaboration between our universities and CSIRO. Of course, in Victoria we have the incredible announcement of the manufacture of mRNA vaccines. And there's a new patent box to support the agriculture and low-emissions-technology sectors. So that's going to make a huge difference in terms of innovation.
The regions—I'm proudly a regional senator for Victoria—have received unprecedented regional investment. There's a new $7.4 billion investment in more dams and water projects to improve vital water security. There's a new $2 billion regional accelerator program. Of course, there are the transformational investments in other parts of the country: the Hunter, the Pilbara, the Northern Territory and North and Central Queensland, and a wonderful $1.3 billion telecommunications package. I know our incredible Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Stephanie Asher, has been advocating up-hill and down-dale for more funding for mobile coverage in places like Armstrong Creek and the Bellarine Peninsula in Corangamite. She's doing an incredible job. We are very hopeful that we will see more news about how that $811 million in mobile connectivity is going to be distributed across the nation. We've both been advocating for an extension of the PUMP program, the Peri-Urban Mobile Program, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as is Stephanie, that we're going to see some very significant funding flow into our region.
Of course, massive infrastructure projects are underway in all the areas of regional Victoria that I represent as patron senator. The Waurn Ponds to South Geelong rail duplication receives another $274 million in this year's budget. Stage 1 of the Barwon Heads Road upgrade receives $105 million. There is $37 million flowing into the budget for Geelong Fast Rail, so we are going to see stage 1 construction begin next year. That's the section between Werribee and Laverton. When critics talk about pork-barrelling in Corangamite, this really does remind them what an absolute joke it is. That $2 billion has gone into western Melbourne, which has been so badly ignored by Daniel Andrews and state Labor. We are very proud of what we are doing to deliver faster, more affordable and more efficient train services, including through our massive $2 billion investment in Geelong Fast Rail.
There are some other very significant investments. In the electorate of Gorton, $20 million is flowing to the Melbourne Intermodal Terminal's planning and development in this year's budget. In Ballarat we've got $31 million flowing to the Western Highway project for the Ballarat to Stawell duplication, which is a very significant investment as well. There's also significant money flowing into the Bendigo electorate, including to the Bendigo-Echuca rail line and the Sunraysia Highway upgrade.
This is a budget, as I said at the start of my contribution, which is delivering for all Australians. In health, Medicare is guaranteed, with bulk-billing rates at a record high. We've now approved more than 2,800 new or amended listings on the PBS. Following on from the very significant $2.3 billion investment in mental health, we're seen more funding flow for community based treatment centres, headspace services and digital mental health support.
There is a massive women's safety, health and economic security package, including another $1.3 billion to combat violence against women and children. There are more frontline services, more investment in emergency accommodation, and support for legal and health services. This builds on the incredible investment that we have made in many, many different ways for Australian women. We've now also included an enhanced Paid Parental Leave scheme, providing more accessibility and, in particular, standing up for sole parents—single mothers and fathers—who can now access the full 20 weeks of paid parental leave.
Our commitment to the NDIS and disability continues. NDIS funding grows every year. We're making an even further massive contribution to older Australians, with more home-care packages, additional training places and personal care workers. There's record funding for education, for environment and for national security and defence, which is incredibly important, including the 10-year investment in our cybercapabilities. Only the Morrison government can be trusted to deliver a stronger economy and a safer Australia.
If there's one clear message out of last night's budget, it's this: this government has been sold to the highest bidder on our watch and in our name. When Morrison's Treasurer announced the bill last night, it was not a plan. Instead, what we heard was a last-ditch plea for votes in the dying days of this shambles of a government. It doesn't take much to see through the lies and the bluster with this mob.
While last night's speech began with Morrison's Treasurer paying lip-service to the climate floods, extreme climate events like these are being fuelled by coal and gas—dirty, polluting fossil fuels that Liberal and Labor only want to increase. This budget gives $37.6 billion of taxpayer money in fossil fuel subsidies, which will go directly into the profits of the massive corporations that bankroll the Liberal Party's coffers. Instead of investing in the restoration of Australia's biodiversity, public money will instead be spent on bypassing environmental protection to fast-track environmental approval for their fossil fuel mates. Further billions will be spent on dams that will destroy critical habitats and pollute our Great Barrier Reef.
When you read the budget, it's clear that they can't keep people safe and they can't manage the economy. They are selling us out. There are over three million people living in poverty. There are millions of people trapped in insecure work on low wages and in unaffordable housing.
For the people who are worried about bushfires, about how they're going to cope with the next heatwave or how to rebuild their homes after worsening disasters, once again, you have been abandoned because the government is spending more money on fossil fuels that are accelerating these climate catastrophes. What a joke! Are they trying to buy their way back into office?
Their claims on wages are farcical. Wages growth has been below three per cent for the entire time this government has been in power. But now we're expected to believe that the wages are going to suddenly grow by five per cent over the next three months. Well, here's the real story. This budget funds and fuels the climate crisis. Morrison and his cronies are hell-bent on destroying country, the land, skies and waters that First Nations people have cared for and sustained for generations. Our environment is in crisis, and this budget is making our land sicker. It makes housing more expensive—$13 billion of public money is going into housing investors, but nothing to build more affordable homes. It won't lift wages; it will make the cost of living increase and it will lock us into tax cuts only for the wealthy. This is another budget for the billionaires and the big corporations. They are looking after their mates, after their donors, while squandering our precious resources.
The climate crisis is caused by mining and the burning of coal and gas. They don't just want us to burn more of it; they also want us to pay for it. Coal and gas corporations are not only getting huge handouts, they're offshoring their profits tax free and it's costing every single Australian. Twenty-three gas companies who sell gas overseas together made $49 billion in revenue. Between them they didn't pay a single cent of tax. If that were you and me, this would in fact be criminal.
In 2020-21, Woodside donated $232,000 to the Liberal-National and Labor parties. In return, they've given them handouts to build one of the worst gas projects in the world. They're robbing teachers, nurses, childcare educators and aged-care workers to pay Woodside, Santos and Whitehaven. That's not how you manage the economy. You can't keep people safe if you keep backing more coal and gas. Right now there are 114 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline across this continent, on country. These projects will increase the amount of pollution in the atmosphere by 1.3 billion tonnes a year.
Yet, in a mere 240 years since colonisation, our people have watched in horror and dismay as the governments of this country, one after another, have acted in their own short-term interests. This government fails to see the full picture. It's failing our children and our future generations to come. For First Nations people, this budget is just more of the same. If the government is serious about justice and equality for First Nations people, there needs to be real investment for First Nations communities. Our people are dying in custody. There is no treaty with First Nations people, only bandaid solutions from a government with no real vision for the future.
Nowhere is this felt more than in my own state of Western Australia. Western Australia is already one of the hottest places in the world. It's been identified as a climate hotspot. This year alone the Pilbara hit 50 degrees, and the number of days per year over 40 degrees in Perth has doubled. But this government isn't just fast-tracking projects like the Scarborough gas project; they're also giving them in this budget an additional $300 million to fund gas projects in the Northern Territory. Scarborough alone won't just wreck the planet, but it will do irreversible damage to the Murujuga rock art and the Seven Sisters songline.
So, your taxes are paying to destroy our cultural heritage. Shame. That's why we have to kick the Liberals out and put the Greens into the balance of power. We have a plan to build one million affordable homes. We will cap rents. We will give renters more rights and we will abolish the outrageous tax breaks for people who are investing in their fourth, fifth, 20th and 30th homes, driving up prices so other people are forced to live in their cars. We will ban all new coal and gas projects and invest in the transition to a cleaner, greener economy, and we will pay for it by making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax. And that's not all. With the balance of power, the Greens will get dental health and mental health into Medicare. Where this government has let us down, the Greens will keep fighting for our communities, for our climate and for a safer future for all of us.