Seven Things This Budget MissedSpeech
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills. The Morrison government has delivered a budget—145 days after New Zealand and 151 days late, but delivered.
As I read through it, I was stumped. Why did this budget take so long? What was the government waiting on? The forecasts are driven by unrealistic optimism, disregarding much of what we have learned from the COVID virus since May. The policy measures are not innovative, and the politics of the photo op are this government's bread and butter. Four and a half months late seems excessive. But the closer I read, the more I realise that not being on time is the least of this budget's problems.
Prime Minister Morrison has delivered a budget with a $1 trillion debt. But for all that debt the government have still managed to leave too many workers, families and women behind. For my communities in Corangamite, there is much that is missing: a package that advances renewables and reduces energy prices; affordable child care that helps more women return to work; and a jobs plan for the future—a jobs plan that does not pit one age group against another in pursuit of employment.
So today I will be focusing on seven things that my electorate of Corangamite needs that are not in this budget. No. 1: our region hit hard by lockdown needs a strong jobs plan to support it through this COVID crisis. This government did well in following the advice of the Labor Party and introducing a wage subsidy in JobKeeper, but, as with all things, delivery is key. The wage subsidy handed down by the federal government has left casual, university, council, arts, travel and tourism workers, to name a few, out in the cold. To make matters worse the Morrison government cut back JobKeeper in the middle of the pandemic. In Corangamite this meant that $20 million was ripped out of our local economy every fortnight. It makes absolutely no sense to tear vital support out of the economy without replacing it with a comprehensive jobs plan.
The International Monetary Fund has consistently and firmly warned against early withdrawal of economic support during weak growth and high unemployment.
In the face of many and loud calls to do more, this government has moved to introduce JobMaker and has offered a hiring credit to employers to take on staff aged under 35. But this scheme is ill-conceived. It will result in many older Australians having significant difficulty getting work or perhaps never working again. It also creates an incentive to fire full-time employees and replace them with part-timers. Then there's the boosting apprenticeships scheme, which enables employers to take on subsidised apprentices. This is worthwhile, but the problem is the scheme ends after only 11 months. What's the plan after that? Will employers continue to retain these apprentices? Where are the checks and balances to ensure this happens? We know this government has a poor track record on apprenticeships. There are many fewer apprentices now across our nation and in my electorate than when the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government came in seven years ago. Is this what we want for our nation? These are ill-thought-out plans, and they will hurt my region.
Number 2: my region needs an increase in Newstart. Over 11,000 Corangamite residents are now $300 worse off a fortnight since the federal government cut the coronavirus supplement four weeks ago. This was a blow to many people in my electorate, who have become unemployed due to no fault of their own. At a time when Corangamite remains under extreme economic pressures due to COVID, this cut was cruel and uncaring. It was inflicted at a time when there were 30 Jobseekers for every vacancy in regional Victoria. The result was a huge influx of calls to my office from constituents like Tina, who is a single mum who lost her waitressing job due to the pandemic and is now unemployed and struggling to feed the family and pay the bills. Even before the pandemic, Newstart was less than $40 a day, not enough to pay the rent or the rego, prepare for that job interview and put food on the table. I urge the Morrison/McCormack government to do what's right, increase Newstart and help the people who need it most in my electorate to live their lives with dignity while they search for that much-needed job.
Number 3: Corangamite needs a national disability scheme that respects participants and the workforce. My region needs a government that understands that disability support is not an obligation to be minimised but a great privilege and a serious responsibility. Instead, the Morrison government is introducing independent assessments without real consultation. For many in my electorate this move is causing fear and anxiety, because those with a disability truly believe that it's not about equity and consistency; it's about cost-cutting by stealth. The NDIS is a vital service and we need it. There is much that demands improvement. For example, I recently spoke to the family of a six-year-old boy with a long and complex medical history who has had multiple issues with the NDIS. He was rejected for respite care twice, even though the NDIA agreed that he did qualify for support. This case is still under review; but it should not take the intervention of a federal parliamentarian for participants to get the help and the support they need. The NDIS should be a service first organisation, and this House and this government must do better.
Number 4: my region needs a national communicable disease centre. This pandemic has exposed our vulnerability. The last national pandemic preparedness exercise was run by the Rudd government in 2008, 12 years ago. But due to the lack of preparedness by the Morrison government, too many people in my electorate have had their freedom and economic opportunity taken from them. A Labor government, if elected, will address this serious gap in pandemic readiness and establish the Australian Centre for Disease Control, bringing us in line with other advanced economies and ensuring that Corangamite is never again overburdened by the underpreparation of its federal government.
Number 5: my communities demand an aged-care system that cares. This budget takes no steps to fix a broken aged-care system.
It does not address resourcing neglect, inadequate staff numbers, training and accountability for how funds are spent. This inaction has resulted in open sores left unattended, people left hungry and alone in their rooms and abuse not identified, nor justice sought. Older Australians deserve better than this. The people of Corangamite deserve better than this.
Number six: my communities need a reliable energy grid, powered by renewables. We need investment in an energy grid that will use the full force of today's technology to plug us into renewables, service the needs of tomorrow and, importantly, enable Australia to become a renewable superpower. A Labor government will invest in the skills, the research and training required to launch a manufacturing renaissance across this country and with the right investment in regions like mine. This is the path to driving down our emissions and driving down energy bills while driving up our employment and prosperity. This path is right in front of us. It is clear and the Labor Party will take it. This federal government has had 22 energy policies in eight years by this federal government, and it is just not good enough. It undermines investment, it reduces productivity, it is confusing and it leaves people with high energy bills and no faith in this government to pursue a renewables-led COVID recovery.
Number seven: my rapidly growing region needs a child-care system that drives productivity and releases Australian women from an unfair bargain they never agreed to. Families across Corangamite should be able to afford child care for the kids. Parents should both be able to work and know their children are well cared for, and women should not be financially worse off if they choose to work full-time. It's as simple as that. I recently spoke with Grovedale mum Pawandeep Gill. She wants her little girl to experience the benefits of an early childhood education. Pawandeep would also like to work more, but it makes no sense under the current model. She would just be working to pay for the cost of child care. Under Labor's plan, 97 per cent of families in the system will save between $600 and $2,900 a year. No family will be worse off. Importantly, women will be able to earn more superannuation for a secure retirement. They will be able to advance their skills and hopefully reach their full potential.
Yet again, this government have shown that they do not have a comprehensive vision for our future—a future that is inclusive and allows everyone to strive for and reach their potential. With this budget, the Prime Minister has claimed victory but retreated from the battlefield. He has introduced short-term fixes that do not set our nation and my region of Corangamite up for the future. This needs to change and it needs to change now.Share Tweet