Senate debates

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Governor-General's Speech

Address-in-Reply

9:32 am

Fatima Payman (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the following address-in-reply be agreed to:

To His Excellency the Governor-General

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY—

We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal and Ngambri elders and knowledge-holders who have paved the way for those here now, those following proudly in their footsteps and those yet to come as custodians and owners of country. I acknowledge the lands in Western Australia of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, who I am honoured to represent. Sovereignty has never been ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands.

I recognise the resilience and strength of all First Nations peoples of Australia and appreciate their knowledge sharing and stories that influence the lives of new Australians like me. My name is Senator Fatima Payman, and I stand here proudly as a Western Australian, as a dedicated citizen, as a compassionate daughter, as a caring sister, as a fun aunty and as a loyal friend to many. We find ourselves paving the annals of history, taking part in a parliament that is starting to reflect true diversity of our community—the true Australia we know it to be. I welcome this opportunity to move that the speech given by his Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of the 47th Parliament be agreed to.

This nation has an incredible Indigenous heritage that dates back over 70,000 years of tradition, stories and wisdom. The rest of us, who do not identify as a First Nations person, have at some point immigrated here from another country. That is what makes Australia such an amazing place, and this parliament symbolises that coming together of so many different cultures and communities. Australia is a better place, and this parliament is a better place, when we truly represent the backgrounds of the Australian communities that elect us.

I want to wish my new colleague Senator Jana Stewart well for the safe birth of her child in the coming days. It is so great that a senator can now take maternity leave—another symbol that this chamber and this parliament continues to reflect more and more of our community than the mostly male senators that sat in the red benches 100 years ago.

A hundred years ago, let alone 10 years ago, would this parliament have been as accepting? A hundred years ago, let alone 10 years ago, would this parliament accept a woman choosing a hijab to be elected? I will have more to say about this in my first speech in September, but, for those who choose to advise me about what I should wear or judge my competency based on my external experience, know that the hijab is my choice. I want young girls who decide to wear the hijab to do it with pride and to do it with the knowledge that they have the right to wear it. I won't judge someone wearing boardies and flip-flops across the street. I don't expect people to judge me for wearing my scarf.

We have all heard the adage 'it takes a village to raise a child'. This truly hits home for me. I'd like my first gratitude to be expressed to my late beloved father, whose sacrifices will never be forgotten and who I dearly wish were here to see how far his little daughter has come.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

I'd like to thank my mum and my siblings, who've joined us here today, for their unwavering support, love and patience. Thank you to all my extended family members, supporters, friends and mentors—those who know me and those who are yet to get to know me.

I want to specifically thank all the officials and organisers of the United Workers Union for being my second family. Carolyn Smith, thank you for taking me under your wing of guidance and support.

And thank you to the people of Western Australia. You elected four new, brilliant representatives in Tracey Roberts for Pearce, Zaneta Mascarenhas for Swan, Sam Lim for Tangney and Tania Lawrence for Hasluck. You also elected a third Labor senator—the first time since 1984.

I am truly honoured to represent my beautiful home state. Who would have thought that a young woman born in Afghanistan and the daughter of a refugee would be standing in this chamber today, knowing the sacrifices that my dad went through as a taxi driver and security guard to ensure that he had saved up enough money to make ends meet to support his family and to ensure that my siblings and I had the future that he wasn't able to secure for himself? I am young, I am progressive and my family were born overseas. I am a representative of modern Australia.

And Australia has spoken. They have elected the Hon. Anthony Albanese as their Prime Minister and the most diverse parliament in the nation's history. In his first speech in 1996, the member for Grayndler and future Prime Minister said:

Multiculturalism provides Australia with a unique opportunity to be a microcosm of the world—to show that cultural diversity and respect can lead to a more peaceful, equitable and fulfilling life for all.

Truer words were never spoken before. He is the Prime Minister who will bring the country together, end the politics of division and be the exemplar of compassion, integrity and hard work, leading a government that is focused on tackling the spiralling cost of living that is making life tough for too many Australians. We must get wages rising again and make health care, child care and housing more affordable while we grow the economy and maintain its stability.

To those who expect immediate results, please allow me to remind you that the previous government left us an economy a trillion dollars in debt, declining productivity, wages going backwards and the highest level of inflation in 20 years. This was the result of a decade of deliberate decisions and bad policies from a government that lacked vision, was full of excuses and never took responsibility. These problems were a decade in the making, and we won't solve them overnight.

However, may I indulge you in outlining the key achievements of the Albanese Labor government in the last 10 weeks since our election. We have included the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in press conference backdrops. We have restored Australia's international reputation by re-establishing relations with France, rebooting negotiations on the European Union free trade agreement and repairing ties in the Pacific. We have introduced legislation to deliver climate change targets of reducing Australia's emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, aged-care reform, and paid family and domestic violence leave. We acted fast and provided immediate disaster support to flood-affected areas in New South Wales. We are standing up for women. We have established the women's economic equality task force and held the first face-to-face meeting of federal, state and territory ministers responsible for women and women's safety. We have brought a new energy in the fight against COVID by extending funding to support hospital systems. We have also reinstated the pandemic leave disaster payment, ensuring anyone unable to work because they were isolating without paid sick leave is supported. We have seen a much-needed increase in the minimum wage. We released the report on the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, which the former government had refused to release and, of course, we have returned the Nadesalingam family back home to Biloela.

I would go on but I only have 15 minutes. We have achieved more in 10 weeks than the previous government within 10 years. A better future we promised, and a better future we shall strive to deliver. The Albanese Labor government will strengthen Medicare by making it easier to see a doctor. We will restore integrity in politics by establishing an anticorruption commission with teeth. We will create secure local jobs by investing in fee-free TAFE, and make jobs more secure with better pay and conditions. We will make child care cheaper so that it is easier for working families to get ahead. We will make more things here in Australia by working with businesses to invest in manufacturing and renewables to create more Australian jobs. We will implement the Uluru statement in full—voice, treaty and truth—and work towards closing the gap. We will create jobs, cut power bills and reduce emissions by boosting renewable energy.

As mentioned earlier, aged-care reform is very important to me. Organising in aged care showed me how the previous government neglected our elders and workers. I remember Jude Clarke, who has been a carer for 48 years, saying that she still loves her job but she is just exhausted. She recalls stressful nights where she used her tea breaks to spend quality time with residents. Another carer, Emma Bowers, shared with me one of the most horrifying incidents that resulted in blood gushing from her forehead. A high-care dementia resident hit her with an object as she was tending to him all by herself. She believes that if there were more staff rostered on that night, her health and safety would not be at risk. Understaffed, overworked and underpaid, they deserve better—and Australians know they deserve better. That is why they elected an Albanese Labor government—to clean up the mess and return care back into aged care. We will ensure older Australians receive the aged care they deserve, from registered qualified nurses on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to more carers with more time to care. We will mandate that every Australian living in aged care receives an average of 215 minutes of care per day, as recommended by the royal commission—more time for not just essential medical treatment but basic, important things like helping people take a shower or helping people get dressed and helping people eat a nutritious meal.

Labor will also back a real pay rise for aged-care workers at the Fair Work Commission, because, if we want higher standards of care, we need to support higher wages for our carers. Labor has a plan to put security, dignity, quality and humanity back into aged care. If you are watching this from home, from work, from your device or in the years to come, know this: Australia is a land of opportunities—a land of opportunities for all, and under a Labor government no-one will be held back and no-one will be left behind. No matter where you were born, no matter which state or territory you are from, no matter what you choose to wear, no matter who you choose to believe in, no matter who you choose to love, know that Australia is a place where you are welcome and where you can be a part of a united collective.

Whilst today we find ourselves in the most diverse of all parliaments so far, I know—we know—that this parliament, this very Senate, will continue representing Australians with integrity and with a great deal of responsibility—a responsibility I am honoured to have bestowed upon me.

By the way, this isn't my first speech!

Photo of Jana StewartJana Stewart (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak. This is not my first speech.

9:47 am

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

With the Governor-General's address yesterday we heard a long speech and a lot of words, but so far we've seen a government that is low on action—if any. It's taken them over two months to recall parliament, and it's only going to sit for eight weeks this year. To anyone, that shows a government that is just not prepared to govern, except in very few circumstances. But the Labor Party is now in government and they have been charged with governing Australia and being a government for the people.

The Labor Party's true colours are already beginning to show, and it is clear that, with this government, you have to look not at what they say but what they do. The Labor Party say one thing but do another. Prime Minister Albanese said recently he wants to lead a government that does things. However, the only thing this government has done so far is backflip on policy and support their vested interests. Since the Labor Party has to power, we have seen backflip after backflip. In fact, I think this government should be heading to the Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games to compete in gymnastics, with the number of backflips they have already done in such a short period of time.

Look at their approach to COVID-19. As we are in the midst of an outbreak, one of the worst since the pandemic began, I think it is important to revisit the Labor Party's plan to beat COVID-19. It is interesting that this government has been so silent on their four-point plan. For two years, we had them carping on from the side of the chamber about the handling of COVID. Yet, here we are; they are now on those benches, and they have nothing to say. Given their silence, I will remind them of their four-point plan. First, 'We're going to fix the vaccine rollout'—despite over 95 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over being fully vaccinated. Their second point: build dedicated quarantine facilities. No wonder they have backflipped on that one, seeing how the Queensland Labor government are currently paying $300,000 a day to a medical company to provide healthcare services at its almost empty Wellcamp quarantine facility.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Shame!

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Big shame, Senator Scarr. Their third point: have an effective public information campaign. I am hearing crickets—crickets about information on COVID. I understand why they are trying not to compete with the last government on this, seeing how the coalition's campaign was so successful, evidently seen in the vaccination rate that we achieved. Finally, their last point was: start making mRNA vaccines in Australia—again, a process already started by the coalition government. We worked very hard to make sure that we build an mRNA vaccine facility in Victoria, the state I proudly represent, but Labor have been silent. The government have been so quiet on COVID-19. Their plan is null and void. COVID is rampant in the community, and they don't have the slightest idea what to do about it.

Do you guys over there remember saying across the chamber that we only had two jobs? Well, now you are in for a rude shock about how complex governing Australia actually is. Almost 5,000 Australians have passed away from COVID since 31 May this year. As of 22 July, there were 9,537 active COVID-19 cases and 1,013 active outbreaks in residential aged-care facilities across Australia. There have been 2,187 reported deaths in 2022 in aged-care facilities. And what is this government doing? Nothing. They should reflect on everything they said from this side of the chamber over the past two years and take a good hard look at themselves.

I cannot be the only one in this chamber to remember the Labor Party inaccurately betraying the coalition government's performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. On 8 February, Senator Gallagher said in this chamber:

There are problems in aged care, where the situation is so dire, with thousands infected with COVID, hundreds dying and staff not able to perform their jobs.

On that same day, Senator Watt, who we heard an awful lot from over the last two years on this topic, said that an aged-care facility was:

… in complete meltdown, with the deaths from COVID of 15 aged residents, and 182 residents and staff testing positive for COVID.

I read out the numbers before. They are a lot worse under this government, I can assure you of that. And I could go on. I could pull out of Hansard the records over the previous years and find any Labor senator from the previous parliament commenting on how bad the COVID outbreak was and how much more needed to be done. However, the fact of the matter is that there are currently more cases, more deaths and more outbreaks in aged-care facilities than before. And what are the Labor Party saying about it? Again, at the risk of being repetitive, nothing! The Prime Minister is silent, the health minister is silent and the aged-care minister is silent. In fact, the whole Labor Party are silent. Now that they actually have to try and solve the problems rather than just carping on, all they can come up with is silence and hope that no-one notices. I assure you that we are noticing.

This is what happens when you have a government who carry on in the chamber but do not have the slightest idea about how to actually govern. In fact, it was only in January this year that Mr Albanese was posting on social media saying:

Rapid antigen tests should be free and available. We are in a pandemic. Everybody needs access.

Then, even after the health minister warned that millions of Australians would be infected with COVID over coming weeks, the Prime Minister doubled down on his backflip to not make rapid antigen tests freely available to Australians, with the Prime Minister labelling the decision as a 'legacy of the coalition government'. This shows the Australian people one thing: the government have no idea of what they are doing. Now it might be a bit of a newsflash to Mr Albanese, but you're in government now; you can extend the free RATs if you wish. Even after the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners asked for an extension of the program—and they weren't the only professional body to do so—saying that it would put vulnerable people at greater risk if it were not continued, the Albanese government decided that they were not going to listen to the experts and went ahead and cut the program. Despite campaigning for a pandemic leave payment, the Prime Minister backflipped on his original stance and attempted to axe the payment at the first chance he got, claiming that it was not needed because all workers could just work from home. He was backed up by the Treasurer, claiming that they could not afford it. This was despite them constantly calling for more spending and increased payments while in opposition. However, once again we saw the Labor Party backflip and continue the program after pressure was applied to them by the state governments.

Now I, like many of you, watched Prime Minister Albanese as opposition leader criticising the government for not implementing mask mandates by saying:

That just shows a Prime Minister who's been prepared to play politics, as he is during this period whereby, he's too frightened of upsetting some of the hard right, who are so obsessed by not having any rules in place …

So now you're Prime Minister, Mr Albanese, what are you frightened of? It means one of two things: either Prime Minister Morrison was doing the right thing and, as opposition leader, Mr Albanese was just playing politics, or Mr Albanese is just playing politics now. Which one is it? You can guess. But what we do know is that while those opposite don't know how to govern they do how to dance when their puppetmasters in the unions and big super funds pull their strings, because the only action the Labor Party have taken so far is to remove legislative oversight from their biggest donors. During the last parliament—

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

So much for integrity and transparency!

An honourable senator interjecting

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, some very good points. For three years I listened to those opposite talking about the importance of accountability. It is fascinating then that one of the Labor Party's first acts is to start working on reducing transparency and accountability for super funds. The Your Future, Your Super legislation introduced by the coalition government was vitally important and was widely welcomed for increasing transparency so that everyday Australians would be empowered with respect to their retirement savings. Now the Labor Party are disempowering everyday Australians and giving the power back to the $3 trillion industry super fund sector. Now it might be my view—and we'll have to wait for the returns—but I'm pretty sure that we'll find that they were some of the biggest donors to the Labor Party campaign. Labor truly are the party of vested interests.

It is really an embarrassment for the government that, while we were experiencing a third wave of COVID-19, instead of directing the Treasury to look at how government could support Australians, the Labor Party was directing the Treasury to look at how it could support industry super funds get away with poor performance and mismanagement—and, also, continue to pocket their millions of dollars in donations. And now, just this week, we've heard that the government plans to remove the ABCC's powers to an absolute minimum, all so that unions such as the CFMMEU can get away with bullying, sexist and thuggish behaviour. Industry groups and business have widely condemned this move, as it only seeks to disempower actual workers in the construction industry. What happened to the Prime Minister's promise, I ask you, to work with business and industry groups to increase productivity? It's only week one of parliament, and that has already gone out the window.

Continuing the theme of transparency and accountability: Mr Albanese has made another backflip on national cabinet secrecy, opting to continue to prevent the release of documents related to meetings of the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders despite being such a harsh critic of the practice while he was in opposition. Mr Albanese confirmed that he would not be ending the practice despite his accusation that Prime Minister Morrison was obsessed with secrecy while Prime Minister. So it is also interesting to see that Mr Albanese has not fulfilled his promise of including local government in those meetings of national cabinet.

What is most amusing is that the Labor Party campaigned on accountability, yet you only have to look at what they do and not at what they say because the two could not be further apart. This government has shown that their interests lie in standing up for their political puppetmasters and not for everyday Australians. They have shown absolutely no interest in trying to improve the lives of Australians beyond chanting a mere slogan, and Australians are beginning to pay for their mistakes. Australians need to look at what the government do and not at what they say because, after only such a short time in government, they have shown that their actions do not follow their words.

10:01 am

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday this parliament was welcomed to country with a powerful speech about the ongoing fight for First Nations justice. All around Australia we live on stolen and unceded land. The grave injustices inflicted upon First Nations people since colonisation continue, with deaths in custody, poverty, ongoing dispossession and persistent gaps in health, education and employment outcomes. We must tell the truth about our past in order to start to heal, and I am proud to be part of a party that's deeply committed to the work for First Nations justice, to truth-telling, to treaties and to voice.

Yesterday we saw the opening of a parliament with more women, with more people from diverse backgrounds and with more members and senators from outside the two big parties. It's also now a parliament with the largest number of Greens ever. Our now 16-strong Greens party room is majority women, and women of colour have taken up positions of authority. Muslim, migrant and fantastic feminist Senator Mehreen Faruqi is our Greens deputy leader, and grassroots activist and DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman Senator Lidia Thorpe is our Senate deputy leader. I'm also particularly proud that my home state of Queensland became 'Greensland', and I'm now joined by four wonderful friends, Senator Penny Allman-Payne; the member for Ryan, Libby Watson-Brown; the member for Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather; and the member for Brisbane, Stephen Bates, who gives his first speech in the other place tonight.

Many Australians shared on election night the elation that, after nine long years, we had seen the back of an embarrassing, incompetent, rampantly self-interested and desperately archaic Morrison government. But what was clear was that the vote for both the coalition and the Labor Party went down. The vote for the Greens and Independents surged. People want change. They want choice, and they don't just want two parties who frequently agree with each other and often lack courage. People want a democracy that works for them, not just delivers for big political donors and vested interests. They want universal services, like fully funded hospitals and schools. They want affordable housing. They want dental and mental health included in Medicare. They want student debt abolished, and uni and TAFE made free again. They want free child care and fair wages at work. They want integrity in government and they want real climate action that looks after our current coal workers as we transition to 100 per cent clean, cheap, renewable energy. And they understand that if we make the billionaires and the big corporations pay their fair share we can actually afford to fund those universal services that make people's everyday lives better and reduce the cost of living. The Greens will push for all of these things in this parliament, and this is a parliament with a real opportunity to change the future. There is hope again. But the new government just being better than the past nine years will not be enough. We need brave, strong action to address the climate crisis, the housing crisis and the inequality crisis.

I want to acknowledge the brave young people who gathered in parliament and on the lawns yesterday as part of the Tomorrow Movement. Those young people, like so many people I spoke to during and since the election, are worried about their future. They understand the science; they know that we can't keep digging up coal and gas. Every year of their lives is hotter than the last. They have seen their communities burnt, flooded, suffering through drought; they have read the State of the environment report; they have struggled to find any work, let alone secure work; their rents keep going up and they are burdened with student debt. These brave young people are fed up. They are sick of politicians who listen to their big donors and not them, who care more about their own interests than the future of their communities. Those young people voted for change and they are demanding that everyone in this place thinks about them when they are making decisions. They are the ones who will carry the burden of our choices and our inaction.

Last night on 7.30 on the ABC, the Prime Minister said that not opening up new coal and gas would have 'a devastating impact on our economy'. But do you know what has a devastating impact? Floods, fires, droughts; keeping emergency services ready to respond to the latest crisis; loss of agricultural land; and coal communities left high and dry by changing global markets that the government has refused to plan for. The CSIRO says that extreme weather caused by climate change, including new coal and gas, will cost Australia $39 billion each year by 2050. Despite this marriage to the fossil fuel sector by both of the big parties, young people in the Tomorrow Movement still have hope. They find strength in their solidarity, their shared purpose and their determination to turn things around. They know that a rapid transition to a renewable future is possible. They know that transition offers sustainable job opportunities, stronger communities, better services and a healthier environment. They just need us to act. Along with my Greens colleagues, I will be working tirelessly in this parliament to channel their hope into action. It is what the people of Australia voted for, and we intend to push this government to deliver.

We are pleased that in relation to the climate target legislation the government is at the table in negotiations with us and the crossbench to improve its tepid bill. We are having productive discussions about improving that bill but we will continue to push to make sure that we don't open new coal and gas mines in this country. Any target that is legislated will be totally undermined if the 114 coal and gas projects in the pipeline proceed. The Greens will push for rapid decarbonisation and a transition to 100 per cent renewables that the science says is needed to not just keep our habitat liveable but to protect the Great Barrier Reef and minimise species loss. And we will look after coal workers and affected communities while a transition happens, with jobs guarantees and future planning.

We can tax billionaires and make corporations pay their share so that everyone can access the services that they need to live a good life. This government could and should drop the $200 billion stage 3 tax cuts and redirect that money into things that improve people's everyday lives—free child care, wiping student debt, more affordable housing. This government wouldn't need an austerity budget and the cuts that it is flagging if it axed Morrison's stage 3 tax cuts.

Throughout the election campaign I heard a lot from voters about what would improve their lives. It is clear that we are in a housing crisis. The waiting list for social housing in all states is out of control and growing, with some people waiting years to get a home. Every night, thousands of people are sleeping rough, couch surfing. They are in crisis accommodation or tenuous housing situations and are at real risk of becoming homeless. Older women are among the fastest-growing cohort of people facing homelessness, and tonight 400,000 women over the age of 45 will be without home. We are a rich country. There is no excuse for a single human being not having a home. We need to build one million social homes, we need to give renters more protection and we need to fix the perverse and inequitable tax settings that make it cheaper to buy your fifth investment property than your first home. And we need to raise the rate of income support above the poverty line so that people are not choosing between paying the rent or putting food on the table.

On dental: each year, over two million Australians avoid going to the dentist, not because they don't like the dentist but because they can't afford it. In the papers today, the dentists are saying that they're worried that two-thirds of Australians who've put off making an appointment risk minor issues becoming major problems. People who avoid going to the dentist face higher costs and higher risk of things like heart disease, and they can face social isolation. The Greens recognise that getting dental care into Medicare for everyone would relieve a significant cost-of-living pressure, it would address inequality and it would lead to better health outcomes.

We also need to get mental health care into Medicare. The ABS National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, which was released last week, found that 40 per cent of Australians aged between 16 and 85 have had a mental health disorder during their lifetime, and that one in six has had suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Almost half of all young women and 30 per cent of young men suffered an anxiety, depression or substance abuse disorder last financial year. These are horrifying statistics, and we need to work to end the financial insecurity, the housing stress, the gender inequality and discrimination, and the persistent existential threat of a changing climate and an uncertain future that is driving that epidemic of anxiety in our young people. But we also need to make sure that people experiencing mental health issues have accessible, affordable support for as long as they need it. No-one should have to suffer because they can't afford mental health care. We need to invest in increasing the mental health workforce, making mental health care available to everyone under Medicare and removing the stigma that, sadly, still persists around addressing mental health.

I've got the portfolio for women for the Greens, and the women of Australia just voted out, in my view, the most sexist government in decades, and they expect real progress from this parliament. We welcome the government's plan for more affordable child care—although we think it should be free. We welcome the measures to address the gender pay gap—again, we think it should go further. We're interested in the plans for a national gender equality strategy. We have long supported paid family and domestic violence leave. We desperately need that positive duty on employers to provide a safe workplace, as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner recommended, and we need a strong plan to address violence against women and their children. They're positive reforms that the Greens have pushed for, for many years.

Sadly, this year 25 women already have been killed by violence, and countless more have been abused, assaulted and live in fear. Family, sexual and domestic violence is a national crisis. It's still a national crisis; it has been for a decade or more, and it's incumbent upon this parliament to do the work to fix it. Now we welcome the government's decision to delay the introduction of the next national plan to get it right, but getting it right means having ambitious targets in the plan and it means actual funding to achieve those targets. The Greens are backing the calls from the women's safety sector for $1 billion each year for frontline support services so that no-one is turned away when they reach out for help. Short-changing the national plan will see more women killed.

We need to listen to the voices of victim-survivors and experts, and we desperately need full investment in prevention, in education and in trauma recovery. We need a standalone plan developed by and for First Nations women. We need specialist services for older women, for young women, for LGBTQIA+ people, for migrant women and for women with disabilities. And we have to address the financial insecurity that can make it difficult to leave abusive relationships and start new lives.

I want to briefly mention the US decision to overturn Roe v Wade. It has shown that hard-won rights for women can be eroded unless we are vigilant, but it has also highlighted the inequity in access to reproductive health care in our country. Some people are having to travel for many, many hours and spend hundreds of dollars to get an abortion. Many people can't afford the travel costs or the costs of securing an abortion, and I was very disappointed to hear our new Prime Minister walk away from the Labor Party's 2019 commitment to say that people could and should be able to access abortion through public hospitals. We will push the new government to revert back to that original, good position, because abortion is health care and it must be available to everyone, no matter where you live or how much money you have. Let us not become America.

On integrity, which is my other portfolio of democracy for the Greens: Australians voted resoundingly for more integrity in politics. People are thoroughly sick of the culture of entitlement and rorting and jobs for mates. They're sick of the donations from the dirty industries that buy policy outcomes to boost corporate profits—from the fossil fuel sectors, big pharma, defence, gambling. They buy the outcomes that work for those sectors, and they work against the long-term interests of the community. People are sick of political donors and government friends getting government grants, subsidies and handouts while so many other people are doing it tough.

Now, we're really pleased that the government has publicly committed to establishing an independent integrity commission, and we will hold them to account on that commitment. Obviously, a bill passed this place from the Greens several years ago, and we look forward to finally having a federal corruption watchdog. That watchdog has to have broad powers. It needs to have genuine transparency and it needs adequate resourcing to do its job properly, and we need to punish the rorters and the grifters and protect the brave whistleblowers that call them out. We need to end that jobs-for-mates culture—the lobbying, the revolving door between government and industry—and we need to get big money out of politics once and for all so that politicians act in the public interest, not their own.

Lastly, on electoral reforms: this election delivered the most culturally and gender diverse parliament in Australia's history, but there is still such a long way to go before our parliament truly looks like the community it represents. We need to remove those barriers for people running for parliament, including that archaic section 44 restriction on dual citizens and public servants. We should be proud of our multicultural community, and they should be in this place.

We desperately need to end the influence of big money on our parliament by putting in electoral spending caps and having donation reforms and truth-in-advertising laws, and we desperately need that Set the Standard report legislated. The election sent a clear message: Australians are sick of a political system that doesn't listen to them, that does not look like them and that doesn't fight for them. We've got so much work to do to restore Australia's confidence in politics in this place, and the Greens are here for it.

10:16 am

Photo of Karen GroganKaren Grogan (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand here in what is the most diverse parliament that Australia has ever seen, and that makes me so proud. I also wish to take this opportunity to pay my deep and abiding respects to the First Nations people of Australia. This is a parliament that is beginning to look more like the Australia that we purport to represent, and that makes me very proud—proud of an Albanese Labor government for its approach of progressive, consultative and respectful engagement in running this parliament.

With the strong agenda that we intend to deliver—a strong agenda that includes strengthening our health care, improving aged care, delivering on a First Nations voice to parliament, a strong and transparent national anticorruption commission, action on climate change and so much more—we are a government committed to workers' rights in all forms. We're investing in creating jobs, in creating educational opportunities and in protecting workers' rights. We will start that with Jobs and Skills Australia. We've committed to the creation of this independent body, and it will tackle the current skills shortages and get more people into meaningful work. We've committed to a range of educational policies that will drive that. We will target the current skills shortage and promote educational opportunities, and that includes fee-free TAFE.

It is not exclusively about having a job but also about fostering safe workplaces and enabling new investment and new development to build our economy and provide more and better opportunities. This is why we have a range of policies that will deliver on that to help strengthen workers' rights, including 10 days paid domestic violence leave, enshrining job security in our legislation and making wage theft illegal.

The Albanese government is committed to creating jobs. While we are currently experiencing a skills shortage, we are also in a situation where we have 1.3 million people unemployed or underemployed and many more struggling on low wages and in insecure work. A skills focus is essential to the wellbeing of Australians in our economy. We must address the disconnect between unemployment and the skills shortage, and that's exactly what we intend to do.

To appropriately deliver on this, it is essential that we get a better understanding of the skills we require to drive our national skills policy and our industry development. We will take immediate action to address the skills crisis affecting our workforce. The Jobs and Skills Summit on 1 September is the first major step. There are various consultations to shape that summit, and that summit will come up with immediate actions, mid-term actions, and a longer term plan.

We have a plan to create and strengthen the workforce, and Skills and Jobs Australia is a central part of that. It is an independent agency that will engage with state and territory governments, as well as industry, unions, training providers and employers. We will not be excluding anyone. We will not be preferencing anyone. We will be consulting with all of those interested groups that can help build a stronger future.

This will operate as a genuine partnership, foster discussion and ensure that we have a shared understanding of the issues, not just of today but of the emerging issues for our workforce. It will work to investigate the adequacy of our vocational training system and address those skills shortages in conjunction with the available training across the country.

As I travel around my home state of South Australia and meet with training providers, TAFEs, universities and employers, I hear about opportunities and initiatives that have languished. Our plan will change that. We will drive change to connect those together. We will work to ensure that Australia's training systems will deliver on the skills necessary for workers and provide them with job opportunities.

It is clear that, through our commitment to Jobs and Skills Australia, an Albanese Labor government is dedicated to creating educational opportunities. We know that one of the biggest factors in our skills make up is how many Australians we educate and provide opportunities, and that our education system is not exclusive.

We have also committed to introducing fee-free TAFE. So, if you're looking for training, your current income, or lack of it, will not influence that; you will be able to access training and build your career. There will be 465,000 fee-free TAFE places for Australian students. They will be predominantly reserved for those industries of national importance, industries that are impacted by COVID-19, industries that are facing skills shortages and industries that are going to shape the future of this country and our economic prosperity.

We will also increase university places. There will be up to 20,000 university places in areas such as engineering, nursing, technology and teaching. These commitments will help to build a bigger workforce and create educational opportunities. We know that urgent action is required, and we will deliver. These initiatives contribute directly to our plans for a future made in Australia. We will provide up to $15 billion of capital to invest in job-creating projects through the National Reconstruction Fund.

We have opportunities in Australia that are vast. We can build the strongest renewable energy sector. We can revise our entire energy system to be better, cheaper, and more efficient and drive industry development because of the efficiency and effectiveness of that energy system. We will maximise the use of Australian goods made here. We will rebuild our proud manufacturing industry. We will support new and emerging industries and commercialise innovation and technology. We will supercharge national productivity and fix the NBN.

There are so many initiatives; we need to ensure a comprehensive approach. So, while we are building the skills system and investing in the industries, the employment opportunities and the businesses of the future, we will also be delivering on cheaper child care and creating a skills culture that will build us into the future.

In addition to that, we need to improve our workplace culture. We cannot just focus on building the skills; we have to focus on the culture as well. As I have said, I'm very proud to be part of an Albanese government that is dedicated to workers rights in all forms. Creating safe workplaces and helping to provide protection for workers will improve the quality of jobs in our country. All workers in Australia deserve the right to be safe at work. They all deserve the right to be safe at home and they should never have to choose between their safety and their income. This will be addressed through a range of commitments, one of which is introducing 10 days domestic violence leave. In this country, one in four women over 15 has experienced domestic violence by an intimate partner. On average, one woman is killed by her partner or former partner every 10 days in Australia. Paid leave is absolutely essential to help these women leave violent relationships, access critical services and look to the future. Our commitment to paid family and domestic violence leave will give workers the means to escape these circumstances without sacrificing or risking their job or an opportunity for an income. Leave is particularly necessary for casual employees, who are even more marginalised in these circumstances. Nobody should be put in that kind of precarious situation. Nobody should have to choose between being safe and an income. This is key to economic equality.

Other measures that we intend to pursue and to deliver on include the 'same job, same pay' commitment, which outlines that, if you do the same job as somebody else, you should be paid the same amount of money. Around Australia we have worksites where workers do the same job, with the same hours and the same conditions, but they get paid less. That's got to stop. We also have a commitment to tackling insecure work, with a particular focus on the gig economy and short-term contracts. We will ensure that job security is at the heart of decision-making and we will ensure that wage theft is made a crime at the national level. Wage theft currently rips off more than $1 billion from Australian workers each year. This has got to stop, and we intend to stop it.

It is clear, I believe, that the Albanese Labor government is committed to workers' rights in all forms. We respect all workers and we will work to protect all workers. We have a comprehensive plan to tackle Australia's skills shortage and we will do that through a range of measures, including the Jobs and Skills Australia plans. We will invest in fee-free TAFE and increase university places to help create job opportunities and address training shortages in those vital industries that are going to build a stronger future, both economically and socially and in every single workplace across the country. We will rebuild our proud manufacturing industry. It is an area that has suffered so much but gives us so many opportunities, not just to make things at home, not just to build our own sovereign resilience, but for export purposes and to build an economy that we can all be proud of. We will protect workers—overwhelmingly women—experiencing family and domestic violence. We will protect them from having to choose between their safety and their income. We will protect vulnerable workers by tackling insecure work and wage theft.

In short, we intend to build our future on respect and on fairness and on a shared opportunity. As I travel around South Australia, I see so many opportunities, particularly at the moment in the hydrogen industry, where we will start to see the fruits of the work of the South Australian government supported by the plans of the Albanese Labor government to develop a hydrogen industry that we can all be proud of. The interest in this was proven in a recent call for expressions of interest put out by the South Australian government which resulted in over 60 businesses putting in an expression of interest to be part of that hydrogen future. It is an exciting time, and I know that the South Australian government is bolstered by now having a federal government who will commit to these important industries that not only help us build our future economically but help us address climate change and help us build an industry that is cleaner, that is more effective and that provides more jobs into the future.

10:30 am

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I just say before I start how much I was moved by the first contribution from our new senator, Senator Payman—not her first speech, but her first contribution—in this chamber. As someone who has worked extremely closely with our wonderful Australian Afghani community since the tragic fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban last year can I say to you that your presence here today is a testament to the wonderful contribution that community has made to Australia, and it is an extremely significant milestone that you are here today. I am sure your father, were he with us, would just be so proud of you, and rightly so.

We gather here today in light of the last federal election campaign, and I must say at the outset that in my home state of Queensland the Liberal National Party holds 70 per cent of all the federal lower house seats. The Queensland Liberal National Party now holds approximately 40 per cent of all coalition seats held across Australia. So my home state of Queensland did not vote for change at the last federal election, and that needs to be recognised at the outset.

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

They voted for the Greens.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They did not vote for change, Senator McKim.

I would like to acknowledge the wonderful work that was done by a whole series of great Queenslanders to contribute to that result in my home state of Queensland. First, to the Liberal National Party grassroots members, you are the heart, the soul and the backbone of the Liberal National Party in Queensland, and none of us would be here—none of us would have the opportunity to make our contributions to this Senate—but for your efforts. So to each and every one of you I say thank you. I would also like to pay tribute to my colleagues Trevor Evans, Julian Simmonds and Amanda Stoker, who unfortunately lost their seats at the last federal election. They could not have worked harder for their constituencies and for the state of Queensland during the course of the last parliament. I congratulate them on their efforts and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

I would also like to congratulate all of the other unsuccessful Liberal National Party candidates in the state of Queensland. In my first speech in this place I recognised the special contribution, and I called them the heroes of Australian democracy, of those who stand for their party and stand for their beliefs in seats where there is little prospect of victory but every prospect of demonstrating the commitment to their values and participating in our democratic process. In particular I pay tribute to Sam Biggins, our wonderful candidate in the federal seat of Blair; Olivia Roberts, who has stood twice for the party in the difficult seat of Griffith; Bryce McDonald, who achieved an outstanding result in Kennedy in Far North Queensland; Vivian Lobo in the seat of Lilley; my dear friend Stephen Huang in the seat of Moreton; and Kyle McMillen, who arrived on the electoral landscape like a knight on a white charger at the eleventh hour, two minutes to midnight, after our candidate had pulled out of the race something like an hour before nominations closed. Kyle rode in on his white charger and did an absolutely fantastic job representing the party and its values in the seat of Oxley. I should also acknowledge that the member for Oxley, Milton Dick, MP—we cover the same patch in many respects—has had the honour of achieving the post of Speaker in the other place, and I am sure he will do an outstanding job in that regard. Lastly, Paul Darwen in the Treasurer's seat of Rankin, another seat where it is difficult for our side of politics to secure victory, again did a wonderful job. To the Senate candidates, in addition to Amanda Stoker, who were unsuccessful—Nicole Tobin, Andrew Cripps and Fiona Ward: thank you. Thank you so much. And to the new colleagues who come to this place—Henry Pike, representing the constituency of Bowman; Andrew Willcox, Dawson; and Colin Boyce, Flynn: you will all make outstanding contributions to this place, as your predecessors did.

Having dealt with the preliminaries, I'd like to get straight into it and talk about the ABCC, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the outrageous, unlawful, recidivist behaviour of the CFMMEU. One of the first actions of the Albanese federal government was to gut the powers of the ABCC, but we saw no reference to the CFMMEU in the Governor-General's address to this place yesterday. In fact, when the industrial relations minister, Mr Tony Burke, put out his three-page press release called 'Restoring equal rights for construction workers' on his website, in three pages he could not bring himself to mention the recidivist, unlawful activities of the CFMMEU. The whole reason why the Australian Building and Construction Commission was established was the unlawful behaviour of the CFMMEU, and he couldn't bear to mention it once. I'll be listening very carefully to the contributions made by other senators in this place during this debate as to whether or not they've got the gumption—

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You never talk about the good work of the CFMMEU either!

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

as to whether or not they've got the gumption, Senator Pratt—to talk about, head on, the recidivist behaviour of the CFMMEU.

And it's not just me who says that. After the writs for the last election were issued, the High Court brought down a judgement, a unanimous judgement, in the case of Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Pattinson. This case involved the unlawful activity of the CFMMEU with respect to using unlawful measures to promote their business strategy of no-ticket no-start on construction sites across this country. And what did the highest court in our nation say? Not Senator Scarr, not someone from the coalition—certainly, don't wait for Tony Burke to refer to it in his media releases on the CFMMEU. It doesn't exist to him. It's the elephant in the room that doesn't exist. But what did our High Court say? Let me quote from paragraph 43. I'll be very interested to hear what the Greens have to say about this, as well, because I'm going to talk about an issue dealing with occupational health and safety and women on our website shortly. This is what the High Court said at paragraph 43—not a Liberal coalition senator; the High Court:

… the Full Court's approach in this case is apt to undermine the primacy of deterrence as the objective of the civil penalty regime in the Act is amply demonstrated once regard is had to the failure of previous penalties to have any deterrent effect on the CFMMEU's repeated contraventions of s 349(1) of the Act—

their repeated contraventions of section 349(1) of the act. What do those opposite say to that? It goes on:

The circumstance that the CFMMEU has continued to breach s 349(1), steadfastly resistant—

steadfastly resistant—the High Court's words, not mine—

to previous attempts to enforce compliance by civil penalties fixed at less than the permitted maximum, is a compelling indication that the penalties previously imposed have not been taken seriously because they were insufficient to outweigh the benefits flowing unlawfully—

this is our High Court—

to the contravenor—

the CFMMEU—

from adherence to the "no ticket, no start" policy. To the contrary—

our High Court's saying this—

the CFMMEU's continuing defiance—

continuing defiance, snubbing their nose at the rule of law of this country—

… indicates that it regards the penalties previously imposed as—

and I quote the High Court, Senator Pratt—

"an acceptable cost of doing business".

That's what our High Court said.

Subsequently, in the election campaign the Hon. Justice Logan, in the case of Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (the Titan Cranes Case), referred to unlawful activity conducted by the CFMMEU in accordance with its standard business practices, as referred to by the High Court. This is what the Hon. Justice Logan said—not my words, not the words of an ideologically driven Liberal coalition senator, but the judge's words:

The time when enough was enough in relation to compliance with the law by this union—

by the CFMMEU—

its immediate predecessor and, for that matter, others in history, and its officials—

no doubt this refers to the BLF

has well and truly passed.

That is what the Hon. Justice Logan said in this case. There is no mention of this case in Minister Burke's media release, put out on Sunday, and there will be no mention of this case in the speeches which we are going to hear about workplace health and safety on our construction worksites around Australia—absolutely none. It's the union that dare not speak its name. It is the union whose name they dare not speak: the CFMMEU. When they are found out in photographs with senior officials of the CFMMEU, they can't scamper quick enough in the other direction to say: 'I didn't know such and such was subject to all of these penalties and engaged in all this unlawful activity. I didn't know; he just turned up at the May Day party and was in the parade wearing a big CFMMEU T-shirt. I didn’t know the history of that member of the CFMMEU Michael Ravbar'—who sits around the National Executive of the Labor Party—'in terms of his unlawful activity. No, I don't know.'

We will not hear the term 'CFMMEU' contributed in this debate from the Labor Party. I am absolutely certain of that, because you are embarrassed by them. You're embarrassed. It's your dirty little secret. You're trying to keep it secret from the Australian public, and it's pathetic—absolutely pathetic.

What did we hear from the industrial relations minister, Tony Burke, in relation to the exercise of the rule of law with respect to these industrial relations powers? This is what Tony Burke said: 'We're going to move it to the state workplace health and safety agencies. They can look after this. There's no need for an ABCC.'

I see senator Roberts is here, from my home state of Queensland. The issue we had in Queensland in 2019 is that the Together union, representing public servants in Queensland, had to take industrial action to protect their workplace health and safety inspectors who were members of the Together union from the CFMMEU. How ironic and how pathetic that the Together union—a public service union—had to take industrial action so that their own members—workplace health and safety inspectors—could not be forced to attend 17 construction sites around Queensland, because they were in fear of their own safety on those construction sites.

That's a nice quip, Senator Pratt, but what's your answer to that going to be? Are you going to defend the CFMMEU? Workplace health and safety inspectors in Queensland had to take union action to protect themselves from the thuggery of the CFMMEU. What is your response to that, Senator Pratt? You don't have one, because there is no response. It's your dirty little secret. You want to keep it your dirty little secret and keep it secret from the Australian public. I can assure you of this, Madame Acting Deputy President, we will shine a bright light—

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

Senator McAllister, a point of order?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

In this chamber, it is not courteous to accuse other senators of failing to respond. Senator Scarr knows full well that, without the call, Senator Pratt may not respond to his speech which imputes a range of observations about Senator Pratt and her position on certain questions. I think you might ask Senator Scarr to cease harassing Senator Pratt in the way he is doing at the moment.

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

Senator Scarr, I notice that you've only got 50 seconds remaining. If you could try to return to the Governor-General reply and improve your tone, that would be appreciated.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Absolutely. It'll be interesting to see if Senator McAllister is actually interested in relation to the harassment that occurs on our construction sites in terms of the activities of the CFMMEU. I have spoken to construction site employees who have had the numberplates of their personal motor vehicles photographed by members of that union with a view to personally intimidating them and causing them great stress. That is harassment, Senator McAllister, not what I said in a rhetorical flourish with respect to Senator Pratt, and I don't appreciate the imputation. Please rest assured we will shine a bright light on the Labor Party's dirty secret and the role of the CFMMEU all the way to the next election.

10:46 am

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, this is One Nation's address-in-reply to the Governor-General's opening speech for the 47th Parliament—a speech on behalf of his government. The reviews on social media were underwhelming. Everyday Australians struggling with cost of living were looking to the government for a real plan to bring inflation under control. None was forthcoming—no plan. The truth is: we have a new government that has a long list of sponsors that it needs to placate. Everyday Australians, sadly, are not on the government's list. One Nation is ready with bold nation-building ideas to deliver breadwinner jobs, lower inflation and energy security.

So let me start where all good governments should start: with the people. If everyday Australians today feel like they're working harder and going backwards, it's because people are. This month's Treasury financial data shows the share of our GDP going to people—that's wages and salaries—is at an all-time low, yet the percentage going to corporate profits is at an all-time high. Over the last 30 years education, health care and housing have increased 300 per cent, far outstripping wages growth.

Next: One Nation continues to pursue its commitment to workers' rights across the course of this parliament. Today we reintroduce our Fair Work Amendment (Equal Pay for Equal Work) Bill 2022. This bill ensures casuals and labour hire contracts in industries that do not have provision for casual employment receive the same pay as the full-time worker alongside them doing the same job. Our bill covers black coal, airline crew and stevedoring. In anticipation of any future exploitation of workers, the bill is worded to allow additional awards to be added.

Next: energy. It's unbelievable that a nation as resource rich as Australia has plunged its people into an energy crisis. Our governments should be able to guarantee affordable and reliable energy, yet in 2022 state and federal governments are failing. I remind the Senate that Australia has enough coal and uranium reserves to last hundreds of years, yet we have the highest electricity prices in the world—the highest in the world. We are the world's largest exporters of energy—No.1 in gas, No. 2 in coal—yet, due to government subsidies for unreliable wind and solar, we have the world's highest domestic prices of gas and electricity.

Australian families bear the cost of the unreliable wind and solar fairytales, with our living standards declining and electricity bills climbing. The inefficiencies and consequences of unreliable and expensive wind and solar are breathtaking, devastating and totally unchecked against reality. Small and medium-sized businesses are struggling to keep the doors open in the face of frightening electricity bills, causing supply chain inflation. Large corporations with dominant market power are able to simply pass on higher energy prices. Small businesses are not. Small business employs 4.7 million Australians who are struggling because their employers are struggling.

The government have signalled their intention to use unreliable wind and solar—or, more accurately, unreliable, unstable, unscientific electricity—to lead an attack on the living standards of everyday Australians. Let me break it down for you. It is simply impossible to build the volume of wind and solar and batteries needed to meet the 2030 deadline. Wind and solar constructed so far in Australia operate at just 23 per cent of rated capacity because relying on nature's variability gets you just 23 per cent, not 100 per cent. To meet the Prime Minister's 43 per cent target, for every one megawatt of reliable baseload coal power that's shut down, Australia will need to build 4.3 megawatts of unreliable wind and solar power. For example, replacing the 2,000 megawatt Liddell coal-fired power station will require 8,600 megawatts of wind or solar. Even this will only deliver power reliably if matched with a big battery having a similar capacity—absurd! So to build the volume of unreliable wind and solar and batteries needed by 2030 is simply impossible.

The 2030 carbon dioxide reduction target of 43 per cent is not a target for the construction of unreliable wind and solar energy generation. We know that is impossible. Rather, it is a sneaky target for reducing electricity usage. In 2010, Australia's electricity consumption was 213 terawatts. It had already fallen in 2021 to 188 terawatts—an 11 per cent decrease—despite Australia's population going from 22 million to 26 million, which is an increase of almost 24 per cent. At 10,071 kilowatt hours per capita, Australia ranks 14th in per capita electricity consumption. It's a legitimate argument to say that Australia should reduce our electricity consumption further only once the rest of the world reduces theirs.

Anyway, why should we reduce electricity consumption? High prices are not an unintended or transitional outcome of unreliable energy. High prices are designed to deliberately reduce electricity consumption. That's why Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already abandoned his campaign promise to cut electricity bills. That was never real. It was hollow tokenism—a deliberate lie. Parliamentarians, corporate leaders and their media mouthpiece in protected ivory towers live in a parallel reality where cost-of-living price hikes like fuel and electricity are a mild inconvenience, not the bloody choice between eating dinner or staying warm that confronts many people in Australia today. Destroying baseload power with reckless abandon is hurting the people who must make the choice between food and warmth. Where is the humanity in that? Where is the care?

The fairy-tale climate contradictions making electricity production dependent on nature's variable wind and solar is a nightmare; there's no happy ending. Increasing numbers of businesses are failing, jobs are vanishing, families are being torn apart and communities, especially regional centres, are being destroyed. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that there are currently 24,000 people directly employed in unreliable energy. To contend that these same unreliables will cause an increase in jobs of 600,000 is the lie of the century. It will never happen. Indeed, the reverse will be true, because studies overseas show that for every unreliable wind and solar job there are 2.2 jobs lost in the real economy. They are facts. One only has to understand the inherent inefficiency of wind and solar, the low energy density and their high consumption of resources in being built. That is basic. However, baseload power and jobs go hand in hand.

The Prime Minister and the Labor Party, after nine years in opposition, have admitted that they have no idea how to create jobs for everyday Australians. Instead the Prime Minister will host a stage managed talkfest on job creation. Why? Where's his plan, which we heard so much about before the election? The Albanese plan is revealed to be a plan to ask other people what the plan should be! One Nation, though, does know how to create jobs: get back to basics.

Today, the biggest cost in manufacturing is electricity. It's not the cost of employing workers—not the labour cost. High energy prices have destroyed jobs and, with that, gutted workers' power. What drives wages? Supply and demand drives wages. Australia has significant reserves of iron ore, bauxite, copper and rare earths, yet we import our electronics and our white goods—finished products made from these same materials. If Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is serious about job creation, he only needs to safeguard our base-load power through coal and nuclear. That will bring down energy prices and supercharge our manufacturing sector. A One Nation government will do that—get back to proven common-sense basics and fundamentals.

Why has the Albanese government agreed to increase immigration when the Prime Minister has admitted to having no idea how to create the jobs for these people? High immigration without addressing jobs, housing and energy sells out workers. It sells them short and creates disadvantaged groups. It's that simple.

Let's turn to infrastructure. An ambitious infrastructure program will deliver the jobs growth needed to restore workers' rights and restore secure employment—real infrastructure, not the Green fairytale that we've heard from the government and the previous government. One Nation will advocate for a national rail circuit; north-west Queensland's CopperString 2.0 high-voltage power transmission; the Tully-Millstream hydro project; Urannah Dam; the Bradfield scheme, conditional on the business case; and many more nation-building projects.

Let's turn to the Reserve Bank. During COVID, the Reserve Bank admitted to conjuring up $500 billion using electronic ledger entries. It's called quantitative easing. The Reserve Bank's words were 'electronic journal entries'. We now have, as a result, the highest inflation since the 1980s. Quantitative easing is undoubtedly related to the current spike in inflation—it's driving it. Money conjured out of thin air and spent on recurring expenses rather than nation building is inflationary.

Both sides of this chamber took the decision to conjure so much money and spend it on economic sherbet. The Albanese Labor party, while in opposition, were complicit in this economic catastrophe, so they inherit the consequences of their complicity. But don't point fingers across the chamber on this; work together. If this parliament gets this wrong, everyday Australians will suffer through inflation—or worse, stagflation—for decades.

Instead of working together to push Klaus Schwab's World Economic Forum plan, based on United Nations policies, work together for our country. Klaus Schwab's 'life by subscription' is really serfdom. It's slavery. Billionaire globalist operations corporations will own everything—homes, factories, farms, cars and furniture—and everyday citizens will rent what they need, if their social credit score allows. The plan of the Great Reset is that you will die with nothing. To pull off this evil plan, Klaus Schwab's World Economic Forum will need to take more than just material possessions from Australians. Senators in this very chamber today who support the Great Reset threaten our privacy, freedom and dignity. Yes, they're in this Senate chamber.

One Nation vehemently opposes the Trusted Digital Identity Bill 2021; theft of agricultural land use, forcing farmers off their land; and all of the Great Reset. One Nation has a comprehensive plan to bring our beautiful country back to sustainable prosperity, and in the months ahead we will be rolling that plan out. Instead of Lib-Lab pushing Klaus Schwab's Great Reset with the tagline, 'You will own nothing and be happy,' One Nation advocates the 'Great Resist'. We stand for a world where individuals and communities have primacy over predatory globalist billionaires and their quisling bureaucrats, politicians and mouthpiece media. One Nation accepts the challenge to provide a better future for everyday Australians. We have one flag, we are one community and we are one nation.

10:59 am

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to address the address-in-reply motion in response to the Governor-General's speech about our plans as a Labor government and our plans to deliver on the responsibility entrusted to us by Australia's people. It's been a very long nine years of dangerous coalition leadership, but thankfully we're past that now because the Australian people shouted for change and they shouted loudest in Western Australia. They demanded that their parliament be a more progressive, more representative and kinder place, and our government does not take this responsibility lightly.

As the Governor-General outlined so well last night, we have a lot on our agenda. Importantly, as he said, we have a renewed ambition as a nation to reconcile with our past, to tell the truth about our history and to place First Nations voices at the heart of our democratic processes, and you can feel the nation changing for the better, day by day, as we really come to grips with who we want to be as a nation. Yesterday I was chatting with my son, who is seven and who had the privilege of coming to the opening of parliament. We were enjoying the welcome to country, and he said with great pride, 'We do this every day at my school.' So you can see that we've come a long way from the omnipresent institutional racism of the past and a long way towards a national identity where the symbolic things we do culturally create a new sense of nationalism and pride that puts First Nations culture at its heart in a way that makes us feel like we all belong. But we still have so many truths to hear and to tell about the history of genocide and dispossession of Australia's First Nations people. We need a voice to this parliament and a treaty for us to progress as a nation towards justice and to reconcile our history as a people. I'm excited by this work, and I'm keen to get to work using my knowledge of our parliamentary systems to work with others to make a voice as effective as possible.

Speaking of a voice, one of the first pieces of business of this new government will be to abolish the coalition's cruel cashless welfare card. I've travelled the Kimberley and Western Australia where the cashless debit card was unfairly forced on people. I heard their opposition loud and clear—opposition that the last government refused to listen to. It was unjust and racially discriminatory, whether intentionally or otherwise. There's something so deeply wrong when private, for-profit companies control people's welfare and income support payments. That is something that, indeed, we will have to look at in the context of the role of the companies in Workforce Australia that have those contracts too.

We've seen millions of dollars go to companies while those on payments lived in poverty. If the very same money had gone into services or into the pockets of card recipients, those people would have been tens of thousands of dollars better off over the time of this program. It was nearly impossible to get off the card; it wouldn't matter how well you were doing. And I can certainly say that the promised services to support people struggling with addiction never eventuated. It's also evidenced in the fact that the card has not been shown in any meaningful study to have prevented alcohol or other drug abuse. People weren't put on the card because it had been assessed that it would have an important role to support them. They were put on the card simply because of where they lived, and the communities that were put on the card are where a majority of First Nations populations live.

So make no mistake: this can only be seen as racially motivated. I've spoken with people who've had to carefully plan out how and when they were going to the store, which could be hundreds of kilometres away, and budget for the insane price of fuel that it would cost them to get to a store that would even accept the CDC to get basic food essentials. It breached every principle of good policy, including evidence and, most importantly, that important principle of 'nothing about us without us'. First Nations people were not included in these policy decisions. They told us that this card would not help, and indeed it did not.

I've got great confidence that, with a voice to parliament, we can stop this parliament from being racially blinkered in the future—or, at the very least, it will be called out loudly and clearly by a First Nations' voice before it happens. I can already see the difference that elected First Nations people have made on this issue over the last few years and how important it is to have a critical mass of First Nations representatives who have seats in both chambers. We can already see what an incredible difference it makes to how these policy issues are debated and changed. And, indeed, they have been critically important in the leadership of the Labor Party in bringing it to this decision to abolish the card.

I'm extremely excited that we're doubling the number of Indigenous rangers. I've seen the incredible success of this program in addressing what have been the often devastating impacts of colonisation on Australia's landmass—feral cats, rabbits, invasive species, land clearing and so much more. As a nation, we have to continue to value, both economically and culturally, the incredible work of Indigenous communities in caring for country. This is such a significant asset to Australian culture and identity, and their relationship to country is an asset to us all.

That brings me to talk now about climate change. The Australian public has called for action on climate change, after a decade of denial and delay—not to mention all the disruption that those now in opposition caused in Labor's time in government preceding that. Labor will give workers, their unions, industry, energy investors and the wider community certainty that we're headed in the right direction, and we're looking to do it quickly and swiftly. An emissions reduction target of 43 per cent before 2030 puts Australia back on track for net zero before 2050. We must do this. This certainty is critical to ensuring that Australia is positioned to revive Australian manufacturing and turn our country into the renewable energy superpower that we know it can be.

Importantly, though, we know this means doing the hard work of organising in the local communities that are already at the coalface, literally, of this change. You can see this in my home state of WA, where we are working towards not only building our nation's capacity as a renewable energy technology manufacturer but also moving along the path of a just transition for workers and their communities—a future that moves towards secure jobs in our economy.

The South West Western Australian town of Collie is a very long, long way away from Canberra. But if you wanted to see what climate change action looks like—action that puts workers and their communities first—you would look to Collie. Since 2019, this small coalmining town has been undergoing a major economic shift. It has two coalmines and three coal-powered fire stations. For 100 years, Collie's miners, plant operators, sparkies and fitters have provided energy to Western Australians and powered our economy. Think of all those beautiful Western Australian stories made and told under the lights powered by Collie coal workers.

But Collie knows—and we know—that the world is changing, that our climate is changing in dangerous ways because of fossil fuels and that coal cannot power our future. A few weeks ago the state government announced that all publicly owned coal-fired power stations in the state would be shut before 2030, and this is because of the work done by unions, the Collie community and the WA Labor Party. Since 2019, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, other unions, community groups and the state government have met every six weeks as the Collie Just Transition Working Group. They've developed and implemented a worker- and community-led strategy that is transitioning Collie from an economy built around and for coal to something more diverse and economically sustainable. We are, for example, under state Labor, moving bushfire operations to Collie. A zero-carbon magnesium plant is planned. Other processing operations are being considered for manufacturing of renewable technologies. A key part of the state's future is going to be made in Collie. It has been made from Collie in the past and it will continue to be in the future. So, if you want to know what a just transition looks like, how real action on climate change is achieved and what a Labor government can do, go and see the work that's being done there. It's not without its difficulty or without debate and conflict, but we are making incredible progress and we are doing that hand in hand with the local community.

We as a government also know that reducing transport emissions will be pivotal to making our cities and towns cleaner and healthier places to live. Electric cars need to be more affordable and more available to families and businesses that want them. They're cheaper to run, they're better for the environment, and because they've got fewer moving parts they have less wear and tear and need to be serviced less often. But the issue remains that they are far outside the price range of regular Australians. It's why our government has already moved this week to remove the fringe benefits tax from electric cars and to make them affordable to working people across the country. Making electric cars work for Australians also means covering our big distances. Unlike the opposition, which has historically negated the feasibility of charging stations and electric cars, our Labor government is committed to building a network of charging stations across the Kimberley in WA. There are already stations spanning Broome to Kununurra, which is over 1,000 kilometres, so we can support Australians with a new, cheaper and cleaner transport system.

I'll end by mentioning how proud and honoured I am to welcome my new Western Australian colleagues to this exciting place, including, in the lower house, Tania Lawrence in Hasluck, Tracey Roberts in Pearce, Sam Lim in Tangney and Zaneta Mascarenhas in Swan—the latter of whom I congratulate on her incredible and rousing first speech last night. I also sincerely and deeply welcome and congratulate Senator Fatima Payman on her election to the Senate. It's such an honour to have you here and to have you move the address in reply, and I'm so excited for all the work we'll now get to do together to make Australia a better place.

11:14 am

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party, Shadow Minister for Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I found the Governor-General's speech yesterday quite enlightening, at outlining the new government's agenda. Despite, in the lead-up to the election, the government claiming that they will govern for all Australians regardless of where they are and where they live there is concern that there are big cuts coming to a lot of infrastructure investments, particularly in regional areas. We've now read reports about the abolition or the pause of the modern manufacturing investments that our government put in place, particularly looking at clean energy and food security issues, which the government has said were priorities. As a nation facing many challenges, cutting infrastructure funding to key regional areas should not be an option.

Cost of living is another major issue facing our communities, and it's one that is increasingly being highlighted by the public, recognised by the Labor Party in the lead-up to the election with a promise to cut power bills by $275 a year, yet there was not a mention of that figure in the Governor-General's speech. Within two months of getting into government that promise seems to have been forgotten.

It's no wonder that recent polling, by Essential polling, done for the Guardian, which is not necessarily a right-leaning publication, found that just one-quarter of voters think Labor is handling the surging cost-of-living pressures. The poll of other 1,000 respondents indicates that the majority of Australians believe—even in an era of deregulation—governments can exert influence over a range of economic factors, including debt, unemployment rates, inflation, fuel prices, workforce supply and interest rates.

At the moment, while the government likes to pretend it's hit the ground running, much of its election commitments are low on details and how it plans to implement the campaign promises on the ground. And what we heard yesterday in the Governor-General's speech was that real action is being supplemented by a plethora of new reviews, strategies, task forces, summits, white papers, plans to have plans, a policy to have a cultural policy, committees, councils, changes to the machinery of government and inquiries announced to give the impression of action. But what I see is more bureaucracy, more red tape and more talk.

Last time Labor was in government they failed to plan for emergencies. They then introduced a one-off tax levy to help fund and pay for flood damage. This contrasts with the coalition's action in government. We established the nearly $5 billion Emergency Response Fund. We've established systems to put in place disaster recovery payments and disaster allowance payments within days of a disaster. With the state governments, we've put in place systems around the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, which the government very swiftly implemented following the recent floods in Western Sydney. But had it not been for the coalition government's actions and the coalition government's preparedness, that wouldn't have been able to have been rolled out as swiftly and efficiently as it was.

Our communities have every right to be concerned about Labor's plans for helping during a crisis. After nine years in opposition and five years of drought, fires, floods and pandemic, the best that they can come up with for their emergency management policy is to re-badge our Emergency Response Fund into the Disaster Ready Fund. There are no details about any other changes with it.

They're also going to restructure the agencies. They started by sacking the National Resilience and Recovery Agency coordinator-general, the Hon. Shane Stone AC QC, and they're now merging this agency's functions with those of Emergency Management Australia. And they've got a new acronym to go with it: the NEMRRA, or the National Emergency Resilience and Recovery Agency. But, not just content with sacking the independent, arms-length commissioner, they've now announced a new role for one of their own, appointing Senator Tony Sheldon as Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery. But we don't yet know what the special envoy will do, what his responsibilities will be, what his accountabilities will be and, importantly, how much extra resources he gets in terms of staff and salary. As a public servant, the NRRA commissioner and, before him, the Coordinator-General for Drought, were accountable to the senate estimates processes. We don't know yet who Senator Sheldon will be accountable to.

And, as far as the people on the ground are concerned, they're more concerned about action than seeing another politician get a title. The people of Lismore are still waiting to see what support there will be for commercial landlords and what the industry-specific support packages will look like. Much was made of this in the lead-up to the election, but the detail post then has been scant. We acknowledge there's a time and place for envoys, but we also acknowledge that when they're used there needs to be clear terms of reference and proper accountability. We need to understand how a politician, in this instance, will be better than an independent commissioner. And while Labor can outdo themselves when it comes to longwinded agency titles and departmental names, they also fail when it comes to delivering services to our communities on the ground. Since Labor formed government we are seeing more concern about where bureaucratic offices will be than helping the Australians most in need. We need to get back in business.

Another aspect that I found very concerning in the Governor-General's speech was the statement:

The government will also deliver on water commitments under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, including 450 gigalitres for South Australia.

Since when has the Basin Plan been purely about one state? The entire point of the Basin Plan was to get away from the interjurisdictional fights. The Basin Plan was about the entire Murray-Darling Basin. None of the targets in the Basin Plain were for a specific state, not even the 450 gigalitres which was for the basin.

If you'd let me continue, Senator McAllister, I will get to the point. As former Prime Minister John Howard said on Australia Day in 2007, when he announced the creation of the Water Act, which spawned the Murray-Darling Basin Plan:

Rivers do not recognise those lines on the map that we call state borders …

Yet the Governor-General's speech showed that Labor is again prepared to turn state against state and play politics with one of the most contentious reforms this country has ever undertaken.

On 29 June 2012, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council, at the instigation of the South Australian government, requested the MDBA model and assess the benefits of further water recovery and what extra water for the environment would do if key constraints were relaxed. The authority's subsequent report, released in October 2012, showed that the combination of relaxed constraints and an additional average of about 400 gigalitres of water could increase environmental benefits, with many more flow indicators being met for the Murray River, and that it could provide capacity to water mid- to high-level parts of the floodplain in the lower Murray.

However, the same report also made it clear that undertaking detailed assessment and analysis to identify whether any of the constraints tested in the study could actually be relaxed was not within the scope of the report, and the modelling also did not include explicit environmental demands for the lower Darling River and the Anabranch. In plain English this meant that the MDBA and the Labor government at the time had a model but had no idea whether, in the real world outside of the model world, constraints identified could be relaxed, and, worse, the model made no allowance for the lower Darling environmental needs. So unless we acknowledge that the lower Darling has environmental needs we will continue to see fish kills.

As it was, the constraints strategy, if it was delivered, would cut the Darling Anabranch and two key wetland lakes from the lower Darling River to try and get higher flows from Menindee Lakes into the Murray River for South Australia. If we don't want fish kills, if we don't want the drying of the lower Darling to become a regular occurrence then we need to accept the cries of the communities and now the New South Wales government that the Menindee Lakes water-saving project needs to be completely rescoped to make sure we look after the environment of the lower Darling, the environment of the Anabranch and also look after the communities.

For too long we have ignored what the communities have been telling us, particularly when it came to making sure there are no social and economic downsides. The Gillard government, in announcing the 450 gigalitres of environmental water, said it would be obtained through projects to ensure there would be no social and economic downsides for communities. But report after report since then has shown that water recovery has already had a negative impact. The state governments acknowledge this and that is why, in December 2018, the ministerial council agreed to a set of socioeconomic assessment criteria, to ensure the neutrality of efficiency measures in projects proposed as part of the 450 gigalitres. Those criteria are still on the department's website. And it should be noted that it is still very much the Victorian Labor and the New South Wales coalition governments' intention to maintain those criteria.

I also want to note that the 450 gigalitres were to be recovered proportionately across states. That means there would be about 56 gigalitres to be recovered from South Australia, if this target was going to be pursued. There is nothing stopping the South Australian government bringing forward projects to be approved and pursued under that project. I also want to note that, contrary to the negative picture painted by the new water minister about supposedly failing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, recent reports from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water—another long name—say that native fish are fighting back. We have recovered over four million megalitres of water entitlements since 2004 under various water reforms and they are working. Our environmental water managers have learned since that time how to better use infrastructure available and how to target their environmental water management. So this year, in a year with full allocations, farmers' crops are going gangbusters; we have birds breeding, fish flourishing, and wetlands being watered. That is what a good Murray-Darling Basin Plan can lead to. On that note, I thank the Senate for its time.

11:29 am

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, Deputy President, congratulations on your appointment yesterday as Deputy President of the Senate. We're all human beings in this place. As hard as it might be for some of the general public to believe that, we are, and I just wanted to make a personal reflection to begin with and to say how positive, optimistic and happy I am to be coming back to the Senate and getting on with the job. I know many others in the chamber are feeling the same way—and so are the Australian people.

There are a lot of messages we could take away from this election and the result of the election and the change of government, but I think the most important one is that Australians have voted for doing politics differently in this country. They have voted for a more caring, a more considered, and a more collaborative and constructive parliament. I've got that everywhere I've gone, and, believe it or not, I've gone to a lot of places in the last month. I've driven 8,000 kilometres and seen a lot of the country and talked to lots of people, and I've even had some people say to me they really feel like they're living in a different country right now. I share that enthusiasm for change and for achieving great things in this 47th Parliament.

They've also voted for a more representative parliament. In the 2019 election we saw nearly one-quarter of Australians vote for third voices in this place: the Greens, Independents and other minor parties. That's jumped to nearly one-third of Australians now, following the last term of parliament, and it will continue to grow. Mark my words: it will continue to grow if this government and this Senate—this parliament—don't work constructively on facing the great challenges of our time, like tackling climate change and tackling the inequality crisis that we all know exists and urgently needs our attention. It will continue to grow.

I'm also happy to put on record today that I do believe that we are witnessing the continued decline and destruction of the two-party system in this country. I have no doubt that within two or three parliaments time—I won't be around in two or three parliaments time; I can assure you of that. Perhaps some in this chamber will be—we will see a much more representative parliament as more young people get to the polling booths and demand that we as decision-makers in this place listen to them about their concerns about their future.

To juxtapose those two things, about people wanting to see a more collaborative approach to politics, a more constructive approach, and a kinder parliament, let me say this: it's not kind for this parliament to delay further climate action. It's not kind of this parliament or this government to approve new fossil fuel projects that are only going to continue to pour petrol on the fire of climate change. It's not kind to ignore the public housing crisis in this country or the millions of Australians who need to get mental health and full dental care into Medicare. If we want to be a kinder, more collaborative and more representative parliament then we need to move away from the state capture of politics that we've seen in recent decades, and we need to represent the people that voted for us.

We'll be having a debate in this chamber very soon on a significant piece of legislation, the government's climate bill—let's just call it that. I haven't seen the full title of it yet—and there'll be a lot more time to talk about what an adequate target for climate action is and what a blueprint, a transition, to what real climate action looks like. I look forward to contributing to that debate, as I know many of my colleagues do, after campaigning so hard to get elected to this place. I congratulate all my new colleagues in this chamber and in the other place but also those of us who've been here for the last nine years, during the swamp years and the desert years, who've come in here every day and fought for climate action and for representation.

There's nothing kind about the pressures that climate change is adding to the costs of living in this country. Have no doubt: the climate crisis that we are in, which will only get worse if we don't act, is a cost-of-living crisis. Inaction on climate change is going to continue to build the cost-of-living crisis in this country. Last night on the TV I saw our new Prime Minister—and congratulations to Mr Anthony Albanese on his election as Prime Minister. He may not remember it, but I was on a panel with him three years ago at Splendour in the Grass, and I said to him, 'I hope you're our new Prime Minister in three years time, Albo, but you need to grow a spine on tackling Adani and stopping new coal and gas projects in this country.' He's there, and I'm glad about that. The next bit concerns me, because last night on TV he talked about the 'devastating economic impacts' of saying no to new coal and gas projects, the economic impacts of not continuing to ramp up fossil fuel production. Somehow that was going to cause economic pain. What about the pain that's caused by burning more fossil fuels and exporting more fossil fuels, adding to global warming?

Ironically the comments by the Prime Minister last night were followed up this morning by a new report from CSIRO that they've been working on for many years that shows that the costs of climate inaction will top $39 billion annually by 2050, complete with chronic hits to Australia's food supply chain. That devastates the economy. That qualifies as a devastating economic impact. Globally it's estimated that 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 12 million hectares of productive farmland capable of producing food for the world—20 million tonnes of grain—is lost to desertification and land degradation every year from climate impacts. So farmers are going to do it tougher. We know droughts and floods are part of the history of this country, but we know the science tells us that they're getting worse.

I think every farmer understands that they are custodians of their land and they need to live off that land—and they do a great job of feeding us. They know what climate change is and they understand the costs of climate change and the costs of inaction. Australian farms, it is estimated, are losing—and I asked questions about this at estimates earlier in the year—on average $30,000 per year due to the impacts of climate change. How's that for a cost-of-living crisis if you're a farmer? How do you feel if you're a farmer in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales who's lost your third crop in 18 months, thanks to flooding? Why do you think lettuces in this country were selling for around $11? Why do you think avocado prices have gone up? How's that for a cost-of-living crisis? What about insurance premiums that have been turbocharged by climate impacts? By the way, that's if you're lucky enough to be insured in some parts of this country now. As of 2020, if you lived in northern Australia, home and contents insurance was costing about 1.8 times more than it was in the south of Australia because of the off-the-charts weather events that we have witnessed in this country.

The climate crisis is a cost-of-living crisis, and the sooner we understand that the better off we will be. The sooner we act on that, the better off this nation and its people will be. I'd like to point out that this has all happened, the science tells us, on around one degree—some say 1.1 degree—of warming above pre-industrial levels. The target we're about to vote on in the climate legislation is a 43 per cent reduction of 2030 emissions based on 2005 levels. The science tells us that the ambition embedded in that will lead to a two-degree warming. If the rest of the world complies, this planet will warm by two degrees Celsius. That is a 100 per cent increase on what we've already seen in our system. If you want to talk about the three bleachings of the Great Barrier Reef in five years, including in a La Nina year; the loss of Tasmania's giant kelp forests and the devastating impacts that has had on our fisheries—the most productive and valuable fishery in the world, for example, our abalone fishery; the loss of sea grasses; droughts, hundreds and thousands of hectares of land burnt from fires—unprecedented fires in just about every state of this country; and floods, that's all happened on one degree of warming. Imagine a doubling of that?

I'm happy to say here on record that the Greens' 75 per cent emissions reduction target on 2030 levels that we took to the election puts us in line with the Paris agreement. That's still a 1.5 degree warming, still a 50 per cent increase on what we're seeing in the system now. That's achievable, that's a pragmatic stance by the Greens. We know we need to get it back to 350 parts per million to have any chance of reversing the kinds of climate impacts we've seen, even for 50 or 100 years time. So I just want to put on record my personal view that even a 75 per cent emissions reduction is still potentially catastrophic for this country and for the planet. But it's achievable if we all work together. Forty-three per cent: do you know what that is? That is surrender: 43 per cent is surrender. And as far as net zero by 2050: when we get to 2050—none of us will be here, by the way, in 2050; hopefully, we'll all still be alive, but, I tell you what, younger generations like the young people we saw out on the parliament lawns will be here, they'll be alive and they'll be inheriting it—what's the point of having net zero emissions by 2050 if the Barrier Reef as we've known it is dead? If it is gone? If our world is irrevocably changed, what's the point, when we can act now and save those volumes of carbon emissions going into the atmosphere and act on it immediately—do something meaningful? We can all do it.

I just want to finish by making a few personal thanks, because it would be wrong for me not to thank today some of the people in my own electorate in Tasmania as a Senate candidate. We had a great result in Tassie. Tasmanians, as they did for Senator McKim in 2019, the Greens saw a big swing to us in Tasmania, as we did, by the way, around the country. The Greens in Tassie achieved the highest Senate vote across the country, nearly 15.5 per cent, so over quota. I would like to thank, in particular, the candidates and I would like to thank all the people that voted for the Greens—all the thousands of supporters and volunteers who were out there on polling booths, who did all this amazing work because they cared about acting on climate change and they cared about tackling the inequality crisis. I would particularly like to thank my two Senate candidates, Vanessa Bleyer, who is based in Launceston, and Tabatha Badger, who is down in the south. They worked tirelessly to help and support me in my Senate campaign. I would also like to thank Cecily Rosol, our candidate in Bass, and Liz Johnstone, our candidate in Lyons. I thank Jade Darko, our candidate in Franklin; Janet Shelley, our candidate in Clark; and Dr Darren Briggs, our candidate in Braddon. There were lots of great people within the party, but special thanks should go also to Deb Rees, our party manager, who texted me yesterday and told me how happy she was to see me swearing in as a senator again. Thanks for everything you've done, Deb, we absolutely couldn't have done it without you. And of course, there are the other party organisers, Danny Carney, who I first started campaigning with back in 2004 when he was a 17-year-old student at university; Bridget Ferrier, Steve Wright, Nina Hamasaki and Ebony Campbell.

There were many, many other people that contributed in Tasmania and indeed right around the country. I wouldn't be standing here today without you and, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for backing us in. I pledge to you, as I'm sure my fellow party room colleagues will also pledge, that we will do everything we can—everything we can—in in this parliament, as we have done since the Greens were first elected into this place, to fight for climate action, to fight to tackle the inequality crisis and to fight for your future.

11:44 am

Photo of Malarndirri McCarthyMalarndirri McCarthy (NT, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy President McLachlan, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election to the position of Deputy President.

I rise today to respond to the Governor-General's, His Excellency General the Hon. David Hurley's, address, and I acknowledge this government's commitment to improving the lives of First Nations peoples and, indeed, all Australians. It's incredibly important to me, as the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and for Indigenous health. It's also important to me as a Yanyuwa Garrwa woman who grew up in the Gulf Country of the Northern Territory. I am honoured and humbled to again be elected to represent all people of the Northern Territory and Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and indeed it is an honour to stand here in the Senate for a third term to represent all Australians.

It's important to recognise our government will be working to the betterment of all Australians in these two important portfolios that I hold. Our nation cannot move forward if our First Peoples cannot, or if anyone else, for that matter, is left behind.

His Excellency reminded us, and reminded the parliament, that our new government has pledged to govern for all Australians, whoever they are, wherever they live and whoever they voted for. I travelled thousands of kilometres in the lead-up to the federal election campaign, but I continually travel thousands of kilometres because that's just what we do in the Northern Territory, because we need to understand what the views and feelings are of people on ground, whether they live in major towns and cities or in remote and regional areas of Australia or the homelands.

There's certainly a lot of sad stories that come out of our communities. A child born in a remote community today already has a lot of the odds stacked up against them, and they will have a lower life expectancy, a higher burden of disease and fewer opportunities for jobs and a good education. It's something I carry very deeply, not only as the assistant minister with these portfolio responsibilities but also as a woman in Australia who wants to see something better for our fellow Australians, and this is the real challenge here. We have sat in opposition for nine years. We are now in government. And the real challenge here is how we can turn this around. And how do we turn this around? All of the policies that we've taken to the Australian people we do want to bring to the Senate and to the lower house, to push through in legislation and to debate and discuss with fellow senators and fellow members. But we are sincere in wanting to see those policies delivered.

Labor will work every day to close the gap that still exists between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians, across a range of life outcomes. We will start with investments that will include improving housing in remote communities and homelands. That is a message that has been consistent throughout the last decade: the need to be able to revitalise our homelands and provide opportunities for families to live on country, to be able to care for country, work on country and preserve and protect what has been valued in their system.

This weekend we head to the Garma Festival, to Yolngu country, and again we will hear that consistent message: 'What about our homelands? What about our ability to grow and raise our children and our families in environments that we believe are safe for our families?' This is what we want to do in working with First Nations people—to offer those opportunities and options. Not everyone will want to live on a homeland, but what about those that do? And this is what our government wants to pursue in providing these opportunities.

We're also looking at training 500 new First Nations health workers—500—and working to eradicate rheumatic heart disease and other diseases of poverty. I'm incredibly passionate about these areas in terms of health. For way too long, as we've travelled across our country, we've seen too many First Nations people on those dialysis machines in renal centres. They travel from their communities, from their towns, to go into hospital and live there three days a week on dialysis.

Now, I know this is not a disease that impacts First Nations people, but I recognise that, with my role as Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, I will have to focus on that, and I will do that. Better lives, though, start with better housing. Thousands of First Nations people live in overcrowded and run-down housing, with major impacts on health, economic and social outcomes. This issue has been reinforced to me so much across the Northern Territory by those who live this reality every day. It was raised with me again recently during my visit to East Arnhem Land, and we know that we are going to invest $100 million in housing and essential services on those Northern Territory homelands and $200 million from our Housing Australia Future Fund in improvements and upgrades to remote housing across Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, as well as the NT. All Australians deserve a decent home no matter where they live.

Strengthening the First Nations health sector is something I am absolutely passionate about. Aboriginal health services work tirelessly to keep their communities safe, but many do this with limited equipment, facilities and staff, and we all know the impact that COVID has had, and continues to have, on staffing in our sector across the country. We are desperately feeling that shortage in the Aboriginal health sector and Torres Strait Islander health sector, so being able to have a look at this and see what we can do to assist those organisations, whether they be the Aboriginal community health organisations or whether they be the clinicians, doctors and GPs who need to get out there and our hospitals who require that support in assisting First Nations people to get through this time, is an absolute priority for me—also, as part of our parliament's push to closing the gap.

Our government will invest in long-overdue capital upgrades in Aboriginal community controlled health services around the country. To create jobs, expand local services and, we hope, to save lives, we are going to invest in training up to 500 First Nations health workers. It gives our health workers an opportunity to provide better tailored care and a chance for them to live and work on country—or elsewhere, should they so choose.

His Excellency noted that, at the centre of the government's determination to close the gap, there is the belief that First Nations people, like all other Australians, should be made to feel that they have some sense of empowerment over their lives. We know that all Australians deserves the opportunity to have a job, to make a living and to feel a strong sense of purpose, but it's not always an easy feat to find a job in the bush, and, certainly, across remote communities I'm always reminded of the desire for people to find meaningful work and to have dignity in work—to have satisfaction, to have dreams and ambition of what they would like to see on their country, in their communities and with their families.

We are working to abolish the punitive Community Development Program, because it just does not work. And I'm just acknowledging very strong voices in the gallery, in terms of a voice to parliament, and I acknowledge Thomas Mayor and Vicki and the team, who are here in the parliament this week to ensure that we follow through on our commitment to a voice to parliament. And I will get to the voice; I've still got five more minutes, which is good. What I'd first like to say is that where we want to go with the Community Development Program is to have a new program that pays real wages to ensure people have access to superannuation, other leave and other conditions and to give more control to communities to determine local projects that support economic development. It will be similar to the old community development employment program, but I'd like to see what else we can do in that space.

A very long time ago, I was actually on the CDEP when I was living in a community in Borroloola, and I know that program worked. We were able to establish the first radio station in Borroloola while I was on the community development employment program, so I've seen what kinds of federal policies can work on the ground. The current CDP does not do that, so I am looking forward to being able to work with Minister Linda Burney and with special envoy Pat Dodson to see what we can do about jobs. We are so conscious that our country is screaming for workers, and we want to have a look at this program. There are 40,000 Australians on this program and there is nothing to show for it, really. There is very little to show for it. So we need to have a look at what we can do, firstly, to re-engage people with the workforce and to see what we can do for those who do want to have dignity in work and a future and who have some ambition for themselves and their families. I'm excited about that. I believe we can do it. I think the Prime Minister's job summit in September will be an incredibly good opportunity to see that we can think outside the square, do things differently and dynamically, and do something that gives our country as a whole more hope about what is possible and what we can do and achieve together.

Other areas that I have responsibility for, as assistant minister to the Indigenous affairs minister, are food security and the social and emotional wellbeing and redress for stolen generations survivors. These are also critical areas. At the moment we're seeing across the country the impact of high food prices for all Australians. The price of a box of lettuce has gone up exponentially. We're seeing high prices for fresh fruit and veggies. If we're seeing the rise of those food prices in our capital cities, just for a moment have a think of the extra challenges that are being faced in regional and remote Australia. Again, this is where our country will really have to dig in and link arms and say it is absolutely essential that, for all Australians, wherever they live, we are doing what we can to ensure food security. That will be my responsibility. It is my responsibility in terms of First Nations people.

In terms of the stolen generations survivors, most survivors from the Northern Territory and also Jervis Bay and areas of the ACT will be coming under this redress scheme. It's a journey that I've followed very closely for a very long time both on a personal level but also as a parliamentarian, and I've recognised the court cases that have occurred as far back as the late 1990s and in 2000, in which people have fought for justice in the removal of themselves or their parents, as children, under an Australian policy that, thankfully, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd acknowledged with the apology in 2008. But there is still unfinished business there, and I will be working closely with those survivors and their families to ensure that they receive the appropriate responses that they need to hear and see.

As I said at the outset, this weekend we'll be at Garma working with the Yolngu people and with all those who attend. Our government and First Nations caucus is very, very clear on our position on a voice to parliament, and we will work wholeheartedly and inclusively with all parliamentarians and, indeed, all Australians so that there can be overwhelming support in a referendum that we wish to take to the Australian people in this term of the parliament, asking for a voice to the parliament for First Nations people.

11:59 am

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about a topic which is near and dear to the heart of every representative of particularly northern Australia, members and senators alike. It is on this topic that we rise above the petty politics of party politics and we talk about the future opportunity of this nation. I'm delighted to speak after Senator McCarthy, who is one of those other northern Australian representatives. Many of the topics she touched on, I think, are critical to us investing in the future of our country.

After nine years in opposition, on the very first day of parliament, one of the first actions of this new government was to scrap the northern Australia agenda. They scrapped the northern Australia committee, the only committee in this parliament dedicated to exploring the very important cross-portfolio and cross-jurisdiction issues to develop 51 per cent of our land mass. There are 1.3 million people living in northern Australia, 16 per cent of those Indigenous—over 200,000 Indigenous people—and we removed the very, very small advantage that northern Australia had in that place.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

How much wealth does it create?

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

The wealth that's created from northern Australia—11 per cent of the nation's GDP, you'll be impressed to hear, Senator Scarr, from only three per cent of the population living in the north. Not only did they axe the committee on northern Australia; they axed the Office of Northern Australia. They've melded that into some other part of the department, never to be seen again. They've axed the modern manufacturing initiatives that we were rolling forward. They've frozen the Hells Gate Dam; it will be death by consultant to that project. They're delivering uncertainty on the future of mining and resources in the north. Northern Australia is being short-changed by a short-sighted Labor government.

This part of the country has the most opportunity for irrigated agriculture, the critical development for food security both for Australians and our region. We have the resources, critical minerals and rare earths that allow Australia to take part in the new economy that we have been talking about. And most importantly—the most important thing that we do is that we take advantage and give opportunity to the 1.3 million people speaking in the north and living in the north. We give opportunity and, as Senator McCarthy just described, meaningful work, purposeful work and connection, and we can only do that by developing the very part of the country where those people live.

Under the previous government, we had committed $6.2 billion to developing the northern Australia agenda and all 51 measures under the first five years of the 20-year Our north, our future white paper on developing the north. I can't go on without acknowledging the work of a member in the other place, Mr Warren Entsch—the work that he did on that very bipartisan northern Australia committee as they examined opportunities for the north, for the people, the industries and the resources. We committed $189.6 million to developing northern Australia. That included $9.3 million to pilot the regions of growth. You cannot talk about 51 per cent of the nation without identifying the areas that can best be targeted, that can be divided up, and allow us to truly make change, to make those investments worthwhile and sticky.

There was $68.5 million for mobiles and digital connectivity. We extended the northern Australia infrastructure fund from $5 billion to $7 billion, and I will be holding this government to account that they do not axe any more of the funding that goes into this critically important part of the country. We developed the priority regional master plans—Mount Isa to Townsville, Beetaloo Basin to Katherine to Darwin, Broome to Kununurra to Darwin, and the next priority region-of-growth corridor is Cairns to Gladstone.

As I went across northern Australia consulting with stakeholders—with the councils, local community groups, the RDAs and businesses—the passion and the intention that people had to commit into the north was fascinating to see. Yet the first action, day one, of this government, was to completely abolish the northern Australia agenda. Infrastructure, roads and water: this is a long-term commitment to build roads and to seal roads into northern Australia. Did you know that there are still roads in the north that not only are not sealed but are dirt and which are cut off for five months of the year? That is unacceptable in a part of the country where, if a road goes out for a day, it is a matter of mass inconvenience. Yet that is what northern Australians live with, at the same time as delivering 11 per cent of the GDP of the country.

We have invested $700 million for 38 projects for beef roads in northern Australia and 31 investment decisions under the NAIF for $3.4 billion in northern infrastructure investments. I could go on with the specifics of the projects, but I want to touch on the Outback Way, a critical piece of infrastructure that connects Winton to Laverton in Western Australia. Did you know that there is only one sealed road connecting Queensland to the Northern Territory and the Northern Territory to Western Australia? We have been plugging away at that for the last 10 years, and yet yesterday Labor pulled the rug out from under the feet of northern Australians by removing the focus, the competition, that we need to continue investing in the north. The Savannah Way, which joins up the Top End of the country, the Burke Developmental Road and the Peninsula Developmental Road are all critical pieces of infrastructure.

We committed $7.5 billion to the National Water Grid for northern Australia infrastructure and resource assessment projects and $18.9 million for five northern Australia water projects through the Water Grid Connections Funding Pathway. What will happen to those now? Last week I was in the Bowen region. Most of Australia's tomatoes come from the Bowen region during the winter months. Huge numbers of those tomatoes have been wiped out due to the unseasonable rain events. Where are we going to grow our crops if not in northern Australia during the winter months? We had money for the Hells Gate dam business case and for the Urannah dam business case and approvals. I have already touched on the blackspot program and the Regional Connectivity Program. All of these are now in question. Soon after the election campaign, I speculated that we had seen the sun set on the northern Australia agenda, and I remain completely worried that this is the end.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

An eclipse.

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, an eclipse, Senator Scarr. Thank you; I'll take that. We committed $75 million through the CRC for developing northern Australia. This is thought leadership in the north, into crops, into other projects that are using technology and innovation to create greater food production, to expand the cotton development in Western Australia and for sugar cane products in Queensland.

One of the things I was most proud of was the reappointment of the Indigenous Reference Group. This group, chaired by Mr Colin Saltmere, from Camooweal, is a revelation, with the sorts of practical commitments they have to improving the lot of not just Indigenous Australians but primarily Indigenous northern Australians with real, purposeful, connected work. This cannot happen if you don't have that kind of prioritisation of agenda and focus. I am desperately worried about the one northern Australia representative on the Infrastructure Australia Board. Will that position remain, or will that too be scrubbed as some sort of political rhetoric, as the Labor government goes through and sacks everybody on committees that are in place at the moment? The Indigenous Reference Group has two representatives from each of the states and territories, in addition to the chair. It is talking about really exciting work, and I would be devastated to see that not continue.

We have had record export earnings from our resources sector. We had smashed all previous records, in 2021 and 2022, to bring in $425 billion in resources. It is those royalties and taxes that grow the Australian economy, that secure our energy and secure our national security. It employs, directly, around 280,000 people in Australia and, despite COVID, 40,000 new jobs since the start of the pandemic, all of those being paid at double the rate of most average Australian jobs. This growth trajectory was expected to continue, but, of course, now we have doubt cast over that by the green tail wagging the Labor dog as we see the agenda being set under this new government.

We were committed to securing our gas supply with the strategic basins policy, our gas-fired recovery, the Beetaloo Strategic Basin Plan in the Northern Territory, the North Bowen and Galilee basins plan, and the Cooper and Adavale basins plan—all of these critical resources not just for energy production but also for the manufacture of urea, for AdBlue, critical components for our agriculture and transport industries.

If the thing you have in your hand is not made of steel it's made in a factory made of steel, and we know that coal is critical in the manufacturing of steel. We invested money into carbon capture and storage, modern technology, to allow us to achieve our carbon neutral emissions target by 2050. There's our critical minerals industry, much of which is in northern Australia, the geosciences research plan and exploration plan. We invested $2 billion into a critical minerals facility.

Will this government continue with those works or will that too be cast under the shadow of a brave new government that talks a lot about rhetoric but forgets the practicality of how it actually makes a difference, of how it actually invests in industry that improves Australians' lives, whether it be the high-paid resource salaries, whether it be how that spreads across our nation through royalties and taxes, whether it be our world-leading agricultural industry that feeds not only Australia but a good part of our regional sector?

Northern Australia is a critical part of ensuring that we secure our food security. We hold much of the phosphate reserves and potash from Western Australia. These are all minerals that need to be developed for food security, to secure agricultural supply chains for Australia and for our near neighbours. With the threat of foot-and-mouth and lumpy-skin disease in Indonesia and Bali, we are looking at a food security problem for those people. Sri Lanka is working its way through a catastrophe with the removal of much of the fertilisers in that country. And Indonesia is down to 50 per cent of milk production in East Java. These are our near neighbours who are struggling with food security. They are struggling with disease.

Australia and northern Australia will have to hold our own biosecurity line in that part of the country. Yet what has Labor done? The first action on day one of this parliament was to cancel the northern Australia committee, to remove the office of northern Australia. I call out to the government to reinstate those important tools of government, but, most importantly, I call out to—

An honourable senator interjecting

I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Would you like to speak next? Would you like the call next?

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, please, No!

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Honourable senators. You're not assisting, Senator Scarr. I ask senators to restrain themselves. You have 36 seconds, Senator McDonald.

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

So it is without the particular focus on northern Australia that we threaten the future prosperity of our country. We threaten the future severity of city dwellers who don't have the ability to grow food, to mine for energy and other resources. Without northern Australia, the resources sector, I fear for what our future, for ourselves and our young people, will look like and I will be endeavouring to hold this government to account along with my other northern Australia counterparts.

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

I shall now proceed to senators' statements.