We’ve seen low wages growth; people aren’t getting a pay rise; there is low business investment; businesses are crying out for this government to support them; people aren’t spending at our shops, restaurants and cafes, and now we’ve got an interest rate cut to emergency levels. This was all happening long before bushfires and coronavirus. Businesses and communities are being hit hard because this government won’t act. Labor’s been crying out for stimulus. We’ve been warning you that you can’t rely on monetary policy alone—warnings that you’ve ignored. In fact, today all we’ve had is some bad theatre efforts from the member for Ryan and a lot of ‘you’ve never had it so good’ from the rest of the chamber.
People are suffering because of this government’s approach to managing the economy. There’s no growth, because they’ve failed as economic managers. They’re looking to other sources to try and prop up their surplus. But it’s not a surplus any more, is it? I’m a bit unsure: is it still ‘back in the black’ or is it ‘balanced’? I’m not sure what we’re up to today. It’s not a surplus.
Who do Liberal governments always target when they’re looking for more money? They target the most vulnerable. So we have a $1.6 billion underspend in the NDIS—money that should be supporting people with disability is instead sitting there to make their budget look better than it is.
Lest you think this is just some kind of Labor attack, let me share who’s raised concerns about this government’s approach. It’s none other than the New South Wales Liberal minister Gareth Ward, who, together with his Victorian minister, wrote to the government to express his concern at their approach. He said, ‘I want to make sure that money doesn’t sit in a bank account offsetting the Commonwealth’s budget, which is what it’s doing.’ He said, ‘I want to see it improving the lives of people, and that’s what it’s not doing.’ Last weekend, in between our weeks here, I went home to my electorate and held a mobile office in the suburb of Greensborough. The No. 1 issue that people raised with me was the struggles they are having with the NDIS. Parents talked to me on behalf of their children whose plans aren’t working, who aren’t getting what they need. Parents are worried that when they die their children won’t be okay. What an indictment of this government’s economic approach, that it would rather prop up its ailing budget with an underspend on the NDIS, that it would put those families through that worry rather than spend the money when it’s needed.
Of course, we’re seeing this approach of targeting vulnerable people not just when it comes to the NDIS. We also saw it through robodebt—the stress and the hoops they made people jump through, which we now know were illegal. We see it in the way they are reducing and outsourcing staff at vital services such as Centrelink. I can’t tell you how many older people have walked into my office or have walked up to me and said how they’ve been stuck on the phone for ages, they don’t know how to get through the Centrelink blocks and that all that happens is they’re told to go and sort it out online—and I’m sure many of the members on this side share my experience.
The government has ripped $3 billion out of the trades and training sector. In Jagajaga, that means that apprenticeships have dropped by 17 per cent. The conversations I have with people around that are with mums and dads who are worried about their children’s future. They worry that their children aren’t going to be supported to get the skills they need, that they face a future of uncertain and unstable jobs and that, despite what we heard from the Assistant Treasurer in question time today, their children will be renting into their thirties. Those are the economic conditions that people are facing today—uncertain jobs, low wages, low wage growth, and struggling to get into their own homes. They are the economic conditions that this government is presiding over.
But of course we do know that there is one area where the government are not afraid to splash the cash—and that’s when it comes to their own re-election. We know that there is not a grants program that they are not prepared to rort. There is not a spending in that that they are willing to let go. They can underspend by $1.6 billion in the NDIS but, when it comes to grants programs, they are happy to shovel that money out the door—and they are certainly not shovelling it to Labor electorates. They are being very clear about where that money is going: it’s going to support their re-election. What a disgrace! The Greensborough Hockey Club in my electorate had an application for $500,000. They were rated 89 out of 100, but they were denied. You are a disgrace!