Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Statements by Senators


1:22 pm

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last night, the budget delivered by the Treasurer was yet another disappointment for people in my home state of Western Australia. After 10 interest rate rises under this government, spiralling cost-of-living pressures and out-of-control inflation not seen for 30 years, the government has been fumbling around, looking for solutions. As we heard last night—and no doubt when the Treasurer was putting together his speech he looked for others to blame—the first thing the Treasurer did was blame the previous government. Then he moved on to blaming the events in Ukraine. The pain of inflation and rising interest rates is spreading across the community to families, renters, small businesses and young Australians trying to save to buy their own home. The reality is that inflation is homegrown. It starts here. It starts here in this place. It starts in Canberra. It's not coming from Vladimir Putin. It's not coming from the war in Ukraine. Inflation is coming from Canberra. I see Senator Ayres smirking at me across the chamber. It comes from this place here. The decisions the government make when they are in power are critical to the future of this nation.

Last night, the Treasurer couldn't even bring himself to say a word that's very important to the productivity of this nation—and that is 'infrastructure'. Not once was infrastructure mentioned. Now Labor has announced a razor gang under the guise of an infrastructure review which, frankly, will do nothing but inflict major cuts to vital rail, road, water, hospital, school and other infrastructure projects. The government sneakily ensured the review would conclude after last night's budget was handed down. We all know what this means—that vital infrastructure projects are getting slashed. This will likely include major transport projects in Western Australia.

The government must rule out cutting or delaying the much-needed Nicholson Road and Garden Street intersection upgrade that borders the electorates of Tangney and Burt. This is a major bottleneck in that part of the world, and it's impacting significantly on freight getting through to Canning Vale and into that part of the electorate and on people getting to and from their jobs and schools. This is impacting upon the productivity of that part of Perth. The government needs to rule out that they will impact these projects. The previous coalition government committed half of the funding for the project. That's something that the former member for Tangney, Ben Morton, provided, and it was backed by the government. The WA government committed to fund the other half. This project must stay fully funded. This project cannot be delayed. It must go ahead. My local community demands that this project gets underway. Road safety at this intersection will only be improved with this project being completed. Locals know that when you drive through that area—my parents live just 300 or 400 metres from the intersection—just how unsafe it is. It's been designated as one of the biggest blackspot issues and one of the biggest accident areas in the whole of Western Australia. This project must go ahead.

The government should also be getting on with planning projects, like the widening of the Kwinana Freeway from Gibbs Road through to Thomas Road further south. This section of the freeway is a major bottleneck. It's important for the future of industries down in that part of the world. In Henderson, where we know the AUKUS project is going to be significant for opportunities in that area, fixing these sorts of infrastructure projects is important, but we didn't hear anything from the Treasurer last night on this important issue. Sadly, we understand that the WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre, an announcement made by the previous government—a $750 million commitment was provided—seems to be at risk as well. This is something that, sadly, Western Australians are desperately needing, yet we're not seeing this government come forward with important projects that are going to make a difference in the lives of the people of Western Australia. The wafer-thin budget surplus that was announced by the Treasurer comes on the back of Western Australians and comes on the back of the resources sector. Labor likes to call this a responsible budget. Well, it's only a responsible budget that serves its own sectional interest. Western Australians are not— (Time expired)

1:27 pm

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

This year has seen a windfall in both political and budget capital for the government. As we face the crises of climate, environment and cost-of-living pressures, Australians are looking to the government for leadership. Yet we've seen another budget that's a step in the right direction but is lacking in ambition. While it does some good things, this budget cannot be described as bold and decisive. Voices in my community are calling for ambition, ambition that is backed by experts—if we're willing to listen to those experts. We face a biodiversity crisis, and scientists tell us that we need to invest $2 billion annually if we're going to deal with the extinction crisis. We're seeing nowhere near that amount. We're seeing hardly any new money for the environment.

We've got experts telling us what it will take to lift people out of poverty to allow them to get back into the workforce. We've seen a measly increase to JobSeeker and youth allowance. This is a barrier to employment, a barrier to getting people back into the workforce, which we hear both sides of politics saying should be the No. 1 goal. If it is, why would we put barriers in the way of people achieving that? Housing experts tell us that the Housing Australia Future Fund isn't big enough, yet we've got a government pushing forward with a fund that is not up to scratch. There wasn't a huge amount for small businesses in the budget, and it is a continuous challenge for us to better support small businesses, coming out of the pandemic. One thing that really stood out to me was that research and development spending was the lowest on record. It's the lowest R&D spending as a percentage of GDP on record. This should send alarm bells ringing. Labor themselves have a target of three per cent. It's at 0.49 per cent at the moment, and there's a lot of work to do in that space.

Finally—I'm running out of time—I think the budget surplus shows that we do need to have a conversation about revenue in this country. We're going to have to have some discussions about tax and to stop being so reliant on income tax. There are plenty of other ways we can shape our tax system to provide the services that Australians want.

Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time being 1.30, we will move to senators' statements.