Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Statements by Senators


1:05 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last night's budget was nothing less than sugar and spin. It contained nothing but short-term, one-off sugar hits which do absolutely nothing to fix the real challenges that Australians are facing every single day under this government. The Morrison government has said they want the Australian people to give them another 10 years. They say it's time to stick to the plan and that now is not the time to change course. But Australians cannot afford another 10 years of this government. They literally can't afford it because, for the last decade, this government has done nothing to address the challenges that real Australians face, nothing to help them live better, nothing to deal with the rising costs of living, nothing to get wages moving and nothing to deal with rising job insecurity.

Last night, while the Treasurer and the Prime Minister congratulated themselves on their budget full of short-term pay-offs and no long-term plan, I sat with five aged-care workers—Theresa, Curtis, Xin, Karen and Marina—and I got their response firsthand. Aged-care workers were once again completely ignored in last night's budget. I was with them as they waited for any sign from this government that they had any plan to fix aged care, any sign that this government finally recognised the sacrifices that aged-care workers have made over the last two years or any sign that this government understood that at the heart of the aged-care crisis is a workforce crisis. I was with them when they heard promises of further one-off pay-offs in this budget when they still haven't received the last pay-off that they were promised by the Morrison government. I was with them when they realised that, once again, this government refused to acknowledge their value, their skill and their sacrifice, and they were angry. They were angry that, once again, they have been neglected; that, once again, they have been undervalued; and that, once again, they have been left behind by this government. They were angry, but they were not surprised. This is exactly what they have come to expect after 10 years under this government because it's what they've had for the last 10 years: no respect, no action and no plan.

Aged-care workers can't afford to wait for the Morrison government to find a plan, when they are still waiting for bonuses that they were promised back in February and when they are literally sleeping on couches and living in caravans because, on their wages, they can't even afford to pay rent. Aged-care workers can't wait for the Morrison government to fix their problems when they are spending their days feeding our loved ones but can't afford to feed their own. That's why aged-care workers across the country are taking matters into their own hands. They are standing up and demanding real action to fix the aged-care crisis and to fix aged-care wages, because they are done working without enough staff, they are done being exhausted and burnt out, and they are done being undervalued. They are taking action. They are taking to the streets. They are standing up and they are speaking out. They are taking action because this government refuses to. These dedicated aged-care workers are standing up not just for themselves but for the residents and the families who rely on them. They know that the only way to change aged care is to change the government.

I stand with the aged-care workers who are standing up and speaking out today. Aged-care workers are not alone in their anger and their frustration with this budget. Australians need more than one-off pay-offs from this government. Is this all the government really has after nearly 10 years in office? One-off pay-offs. That is it. What Australians really need is a pay rise, because everything is going up under this government while wages continue to go backwards. People are struggling to even afford the basics. Under this government more people than ever before on record are having to work two, three and even four jobs just to make ends meet.

For the last almost 10 years of this government we have had the lowest wage growth on record and it is set to continue under this government and under their budget. On top of that, on top of the low wages, there are three million Australians in insecure jobs and the government has nothing for them, nothing. It is a complete disgrace. It is a disgrace, because after almost a decade the Morrison government still has no plan to get wages moving. Last night's budget literally had nothing on wages except a sentence in the beginning. Sitting back and waiting for wages to move on their own is not a plan. It is not enough. The short-term bandaid responses by the Morrison government are simply not enough. One-off pay-offs instead of real pay rises will not cut it. But offering short-term pay-offs is the only plan that this government has. It's all they can offer Australians. Last night's budget was full of them: one-off, short-term, vote-buying pay-offs. This is not the plan Australians need to ease the cost of living. This is not a plan to deliver good, secure jobs. This is not a plan to get wages moving. This is not a plan for the next 10 years. It is barely a plan for the next eight weeks. Australians do not buy it. They do not buy it. Australians cannot afford these quick political fixes from the Morrison government when what they need are long-term plans to get their wages moving.

This is all the Morrison government has to offer for the next 10 years. This is a government that is ready for opposition. I asked Australians what they thought of the prospect of another 10 years of the Morrison government: Jane, an early childhood educator, and, Cooper, a hospo worker. Jane and Cooper were very clear. Cooper said, 'I am terrified of the prospect of living any more of my life under a Morrison government.' Jane said, 'We can't afford another three years. It's a frightening prospect. It would be a catastrophe.' Terrifying, frightening and a catastrophe, this is Prime Minister Morrison's Australia. This is it. This is what Australian workers are saying about their government. They quite literally fear another term of this government.

The Morrison government says they've done a good job with the economy and that we should stay the course. The lived experience of millions of Australians proves otherwise. Australians have gone backwards over the last almost decade of this do nothing government. Only Labor will stand with essential workers, essential workers like Jane, essential workers like Cooper, essential workers like Grace. Grace is an aged-care worker who I spoke to who is also terrified of the prospect of another 10 years of this government.

It is only Labor who will stand with these workers. It is only Labor who will fight to end job insecurity. It is only Labor who will lower the cost of living for Australians. Only an Albanese Labor government will get wages moving in the right direction. Labor knows how difficult the last few years have been for Australians, because we have been out there listening to Australians. We know that Australians simply cannot afford the Morrison government. They literally can't afford it—not for another day, not for another three years, let alone the decade that this government wants Australians to give them.