I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 because it is so important. This has been the most difficult of years, and here in Melbourne we have done it harder than people in other states, with our community putting in the effort to see off the second wave. I know that people in my community are tired and anxious after that effort. At the same time, they want to know what comes next. They want to know that the federal government has a plan to support them and their recovery. They want to feel good about their children’s future. Unfortunately, this budget does not deliver on that need. It leaves too many people out, particularly the people hardest hit by this recession, and it leaves too many people behind. It doesn’t take up the opportunity to tackle climate change and put us on course to being a renewable superpower. And it certainly does not fix our broken aged-care system, which this pandemic has revealed to be too unsafe for and too uncaring of our oldest community members.
Instead, the Morrison government’s 2020-21 budget figures bring to an end three decades of economic growth, with a million people unemployed, with an expected 160,000 more by Christmas, and a trillion dollars worth of debt—debt which had already doubled under this government and which is now four times that which the coalition inherited when it came to office. It doesn’t have to be this way. As the Leader of the Opposition outlined in his budget reply, we can and should have a recovery that delivers a stronger, fairer and more secure future for all Australians. Scott Morrison’s budget leaves people behind. It does nothing for the million Australians unemployed or for the people in my community who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in vastly different circumstances from what they expected at the start of the year. They still have mortgages to pay, kids to get to school and lives to get on with. But if they have lost their job this budget reduces their support back to $40 a day.
We know that in this pandemic the first people to be laid off and to be in positions of hardship were the people with insecure work, those with low wages and few entitlements. In many cases, these are the people with little to fall back on. Yet these are not the people being targeted for support in Scott Morrison’s budget. Instead, the government has put in place a wage subsidy for young workers that actually risks discouraging employers from hiring older workers, in particular women over 35. We know these are the people suffering in this recession. We know it’s harder for older workers to find employment during and coming out of a recession. It is inexplicable that, instead of recognising this, the government has put together an ill-conceived policy that will be a further disincentive for businesses to employ mature-age people. As the shadow Treasurer has rightly pointed out, never before has a government spent so much to achieve so little.
Since being elected to parliament last year, I’ve been fighting for Australia to have a childcare system that is more affordable and more accessible, providing local families with the support they need and children with the best start in life. I’ve had too many conversations in the playground with mums who tell me they just can’t afford to go back to work for more than a couple of days a week because, after that, the cost of child care outstrips what they earn. Childcare fees in Australia are currently some of the highest in the world. During a recession where more women than men have lost jobs, it makes absolutely no sense that we would leave in place these high childcare fees as a barrier that stops women from being able to get back to work.
That’s why I’m so proud that the Leader of the Opposition announced in his budget reply that a future Labor government would cut childcare fees and help support women get back to work. We’ve got a plan for affordable child care that means 97 per cent of all families in the system will save between $600 and $2,900 a year. That is significant for so many families. No family will be worse off. Labor’s policy has been welcomed by business, economists, business groups and the early learning sector, and, most importantly, it’s been welcomed by families. That’s because this childcare policy makes sense. It makes sense that we view child care as a universal service. It has benefits for all of us, instead of being an expensive privilege that locks too many women out of the workforce and denies too many children the best start in life.
The lack of support for child care in this budget—and during this pandemic—really highlights how the Morrison government just has not considered women in its budget. During this pandemic, despite women having to pick up the bulk of the child care and the bulk of the housework, and despite them losing employment at a greater rate than men, we do not see a focus on women and their needs in this budget. When called on this, what did the Prime Minister’s office say? They said no-one credible thought that women had been left out of this budget. I assume they didn’t plan to unleash the torrent of women on social media who called them out on this—credible women, all of them—furious that, in the middle of a pandemic and a recession that have turned their lives upside down, this government couldn’t find the support they needed and couldn’t even comprehend that they needed targeted support in this budget.
At this crucial turning point in our history, amongst all this destruction, it’s incomprehensible that the Morrison government’s budget does not chart a clean energy future for our country. We all know that Australia should be a renewable energy superpower. I hear this loud and clear from the people I represent. They want a clean energy future. When they talk to me about the future they want to create for their children and their grandchildren after this pandemic, this is the No. 1 issue they bring up. I can tell you that, for me, appearing via video link like this while seven months pregnant, in the middle of a pandemic, it is something I think about a lot. But, clearly, it is not something that the Morrison government is thinking about—because we risk missing our window for change. As the rest of the world transitions to a clean energy future, we risk Australian jobs.
That’s why I’m proud that in his budget reply the Leader of the Opposition committed a future Labor government to modernising Australia’s energy grid, allowing us to unlock our renewable energy potential. Australia’s current energy grid is not fit for purpose. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it was designed for a time when solar panels ran pocket calculators, not the one in four households who have rooftop solar. The current network takes no account of the rise of renewables as the cheapest new energy source and it doesn’t help link these new sources up to the national grid. So a Labor government will set up a new Rewiring the Nation Corporation to rebuild and modernise the grid, to drive down power prices and to give our economy a boost of up to $40 billion and create thousands of new jobs. The energy grid will be built by Australian workers using Australian suppliers, through mandating local supply and local labour. What a contrast with the Morrison government’s budget. What a contrast with the Morrison government’s refusal to deliver the modern energy network we need to unlock our renewable energy potential, and the investment we need to cut electricity prices and grow the jobs in our renewable energy sector and other areas. This government has had 22 energy policies in the last eight years, and all it has to show for them are high electricity prices and higher emissions. We must do so much better than this. My community is counting on us to do so much better than this when it comes to renewable energy and a clean energy future.
As we just heard from the member for Calwell, one of the big areas missed in this budget was social housing. We know that one of the things the government could do right now to create jobs and lift productivity is invest in social housing. There are 100,000 social housing dwellings around the country that are in urgent need of repair. Some of those are in my electorate of Jagajaga. They are crying out for federal government investment. We have too many people still waiting for a roof over their head. We have women in vulnerable situations trying to get away from family violence, long-term unemployed people who struggle without a roof over their head, families who are worried about where they’ll bring up their kids.
Having a decent house is the foundation for a decent life. It allows for so much more to come together. It is a no-brainer that we should be investing in social housing at this time and yet, again, this is a missed opportunity by the Morrison government in this budget. There is not a mention of social housing—not the investment that could drive transformation in people’s lives in my community and in other communities around the country. Again, what a contrast with Labor’s plans. If we were in government right now, we’d be creating jobs for thousands of tradies in almost every suburb and town across Australia to fast-track urgent repairs to social housing. This could involve an immediate $500 million contribution from the Commonwealth and a partnership with the states—how about that, a partnership with the states instead of taking pot shots at them—with the expectation that they would contribute up to the same amount in new funding.
We know that housing construction is expected to plummet this financial year, from 170,000 to as few as 125,000 new home builds. What an opportunity to invest in the future of our country. Investing in social housing would be a win-win. It would provide work for local tradies and it would fix the homes that need to be fixed. It would mean that so many more Australian families, including people in my community, had the possibility of waking up in a decent home, the possibility of feeding their kids without a leaking roof over their heads, the possibility of knowing that they had a more secure future for the coming years of their life. What a missed opportunity.
Another area where we fail to see the government deliver in this budget is manufacturing. Through this pandemic, I’ve heard from people in my community about how disappointed they are about how little Australia manufactures now. We know that there’s potential for us to do so much more here. We know that we could have an industry supported by federal government in this country. I have manufacturers in my community who have told me how difficult it’s been for them since this government allowed the car industry to leave—that the work they used to have that flowed from that has gone. They’re not getting the contracts they should in defence manufacturing because the government stitches it up for large providers. There was an opportunity here, an opportunity in all our communities, in communities like mine, for us to rebuild local manufacturing, creating jobs, creating know-how and creating innovation. But we need to see the investment and we need to see the follow-through from this government, and, unfortunately, it just was not contained in this budget.
So, for all the debt and deficit, for all the big talk in the announcements, what we’re left with is a poorly targeted budget that doesn’t support those people who need it most. It’s left out women. It didn’t have anything for child care—the one thing that could really support women getting back into work. It’s left out social housing—a huge need across our country. And it’s left out the chance to transition us to a renewable energy future, to make sure that we are actually securing a better country for all of us—for our children, for our grandchildren. It’s missed this opportunity in this time of disruption to build a stronger, fairer and cleaner Australia. It’s a missed opportunity. It’s clear that Labor has a different plan. We’ve shown that we can step up, that we are ready to take the opportunity of this time and to deliver in these important areas. I think the contrast is clear. I think the Australian people will see that contrast is clear and will endorse Labor’s policies for the future.