House Proceedings - Oppositions 2021 Budget Reply

May 14, 2021 06:00 · 4558 words · 22 minute read

I call the Leader of the Opposition. My fellow Australians, I grew up in a council house in Camperdown— the only son of a single mum on the disability pension.

00:21 - I stand before you tonight seeking the honour of serving as your Prime Minister.

00:29 - I’m here because of sacrifices my mum made to give me chances she was denied by disadvantage.

00:37 - I’ll never forget that. I’m here tonight because good government changed my life.

00:44 - For me, and, I know, for so many people in similar circumstances, the policies and decisions of good government can make all the difference.

00:55 - A good government building a strong economy and a fair society opens the door to education, to employment, to decent housing, to proper health care and to a better life.

01:11 - I lived that as a young man, and I saw it first-hand as Deputy Prime Minister and the minister for infrastructure—creating jobs, connecting up communities, boosting productivity in our cities and our regions.

01:27 - I understand the value and the power of good government, and I know our country needs and deserves a good government again— a government that believes in your potential, a Prime Minister who shares your values, a Labor government that’s on your side.

01:53 - Australians know that the last year has been unlike any other in our lifetimes.

02:00 - When we look at the devastation and heartbreak still unfolding in parts of the world, it’s only natural to feel that things could have been a lot worse here.

02:11 - Yet, when I look at our country today, I also know we can do so much better: so much better than real wages declining over the next four years, after flatlining over the last eight years; so much better than three more years of scandal and a government treating taxpayers’ funds as if they are Liberal Party funds; so much better than three more years of announcements that are never delivered; and so much better than merely coming back, rather than building back stronger.

02:50 - This budget offers a low-growth, low-productivity and low-wage future, and a trillion dollars of debt. Is that really the best we can aspire to? I want Australia to emerge from this crisis stronger, smarter and more self-reliant, with an economic recovery that works for all Australians.

03:17 - Throughout this pandemic, Australians have given up so much.

03:22 - Labor’s plan is about rewarding and repaying the sacrifices that people have made.

03:29 - Tonight I will further outline Labor’s alternative policy agenda— an agenda with three guiding principles that will drive Labor in government: one, an economy that delivers for working families; two, investing in Australia’s future; and, three, no-one held back and no-one left behind.

03:52 - These three principles will drive our plans and policies to secure a better future, improve living standards and promote fairness.

04:03 - We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to re-invent our economy; to lift wages and to make sure they keep rising; to invest in advanced manufacturing and skills and training, with public TAFE at its heart; to provide affordable child care; to fix aged care; to address the housing crisis; to champion equality for women; and to emerge as a renewable energy superpower.

04:35 - That’s the better future that I want to build for Australia as Prime Minister.

04:41 - But Tuesday’s budget didn’t speak for this country’s future; it only told the sorry tale of eight years of Liberal neglect; eight years of wasting opportunities and running from responsibility; eight years of flat wages but rising costs; eight years of ignoring problems and cutting funding from the solutions; eight years of cushy jobs for Liberal mates but insecure work for ordinary Australians; and eight years of holding people back and leaving people behind.

05:18 - I measure the strength of our economy by how it works for people.

05:24 - So for me there’s a simple test by which we can judge the last eight years.

05:31 - Do you feel better off than you did eight years ago? Do you feel more secure at work? When did you last get a wage rise? Are you finding it easier to pay your bills? Are you more certain of your future and, importantly, that of your children? The past eight years have been very good to the Prime Minister and his mates, but has it been good for you? After eight years in power, this Prime Minister is getting ready to ask you for three more.

06:10 - When Robert Menzies founded the Liberal Party, he spoke about the forgotten people.

06:16 - This Liberal government just wants you to forget— forget their failures, forget their broken promises and forget all their jobs for their mates.

06:27 - Make no mistake: the budget handed down on Tuesday night is not a plan for the next generation; it is a patch-up job for the next election.

06:39 - Remember that the centrepiece of last year’s budget was JobMaker.

06:44 - That promised to create 450,000 new jobs. It fell short by 449,000.

06:57 - That’s right: not 450,000; just 1,000—missed by ‘that much’! Like so much with this government, it was all ‘smirk and mirrors’.

07:14 - This week the chasm between announcement and delivery didn’t even make it to budget night.

07:20 - Having told Monday’s papers that the budget would provide $10 billion of additional infrastructure investment, their actual budget papers show a $3. 3 billion cut to infrastructure over the next four years.

07:36 - This is a government that is all announcement and no delivery.

07:42 - See, for this Prime Minister, the announcement is all about him, always— the press conference, the photo-op— but, when it comes to the part that affects you, the delivery, he’s lost interest.

07:58 - His only interest at that point is blaming someone else.

08:01 - When the Black Summer of bushfires raged, he said, memorably, ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate. ’ Now, with our tourism and education industries still locked away from the world and with more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas, he says, ‘Quarantine is a matter for the states,’ and ‘Getting the vaccine isn’t a race. ’ He puts out a press release threatening to put returning Australians in jail and then blames the media for reporting it.

08:35 - Locked out or locked up: a message no Australian government should send to our own citizens.

08:45 - The Prime Minister’s constant buck-passing and blame-shifting has become a handbrake on our economic recovery.

08:53 - The strength of our economic recovery is dependent on effective quarantine and vaccinations but, with more than a year to prepare, this government has bungled both.

09:06 - We should have expanded existing quarantine facilities and built new ones across the country which are fit for purpose and located near medical and other needed support.

09:18 - For example, Bladin Village, outside of Darwin, has the potential to house up to 1,000 people and is currently being used to quarantine US defence force personnel.

09:31 - Australian citizens, of course, were promised that they would be home by Christmas last year.

09:37 - We were also told that we were at the front of the queue for vaccines, when we in fact have one of the slowest rollouts in the advanced world.

09:48 - Now the Prime Minister and the Treasurer can’t even agree on when Australians will be vaccinated.

09:54 - Australia should be making mRNA vaccines here.

09:59 - Our Labor government will prioritise support for this production through our national reconstruction fund.

10:06 - We believe Australia can be a world-leading pharmaceutical manufacturing hub.

10:12 - Never again should the health of Australians be put at risk by this government’s refusal to invest in manufacturing.

10:25 - But it’s not just in his response to vaccinations and quarantine that this Prime Minister has failed the test of leadership.

10:34 - A once-in-a-generation march by the women of Australia, in pursuit of respect and justice—ignored; courageous survivors shunned and then slandered.

10:49 - A once-in-a-lifetime statement from the heart from the First Australians, a clarion call for truth, treaty and voice— delayed and then dismissed; a generous statement to advance reconciliation that a Labor government will embrace and will advocate at a referendum.

11:14 - The government forced into a compensation payout in excess of $1 billion to the people it hounded through robodebt, yet now preparing for the same program of cuts and harassment for people on the NDIS.

11:31 - A new spirit of co-operation between unions and business, striving to improve conditions and productivity, and this government uses it to launch an assault on workers’ pay, sick leave and job security.

11:46 - A new surge of momentum for global action on climate change, and Australia with nothing to offer— the Prime Minister literally stuck on mute in front of the world and a government frozen in time while the world warms around it.

12:07 - The Liberals offered up nothing but a show-bag budget, flashy enough to sell on Tuesday night but beginning to fall apart the very next day, when the reality of falling real wages, vaccination confusion, infrastructure cuts and productivity inertia become apparent.

12:27 - There was nothing built to last and no real reform, just a series of announcements to overcome political problems which the government had created.

12:40 - I believe that the economy should work for people, not the other way around. People have endured eight long years of stagnant wages, growing job insecurity and pressure on family costs like child care, rent, petrol and groceries.

12:57 - We know that Australians who are counted as employed can’t get enough hours to pay the bills, or can’t count on regular hours.

13:06 - We know that too many Australians are being exploited, or underpaid or subjected to an unsafe environment, hostage to their insecure work.

13:17 - And we know that this government will seek to undermine trade unions at every opportunity.

13:24 - At the first flicker of economic recovery, this government tried to cut wages and conditions.

13:30 - Instead of standing up for people who were being paid as little as two dollars an hour, they say that enforcing the minimum wage is complicated.

13:41 - Labor’s plan for secure jobs includes: writing job security into the Fair Work Act; properly defining casual work; cracking down on the abuse by cowboy labour hire firms, to ensure that people who do the same job get the same pay; public reporting on the gender pay gap for large companies; and 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave.

14:08 - And we will make wage theft a crime. This should have been done. It could have been done, but the Morrison government actually voted to remove it from their own legislation.

14:34 - An eight-year-old government behaved like an eight-year-old child and threw a tantrum.

14:41 - And why were they cranky? Because Labor and the crossbench refused to support the parts of the legislation that would cut pay.

14:52 - Our approach stands in stark contrast to that of those opposite, who cut penalty rates and who posted that low wages were a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture.

15:07 - I know there is a better way. Boosting wages and lifting productivity are essential for economic growth.

15:15 - If you increase wages, workers will have more to spend in their local small businesses.

15:20 - If elected Prime Minister, I will always stand up for secure jobs and fair wages.

15:30 - Last year I outlined Labor’s cheaper childcare plan, abolishing the cap and increasing the subsidy to lower childcare costs for virtually every family.

15:43 - The government dismissed our policy. They declared that they had already fixed affordability and they ridiculed the economic gain from investing in child care.

15:54 - Now the government have rushed out a half-baked policy announcement that they say will lower the structural disincentive to work that they told us just six months ago didn’t exist.

16:09 - What this Treasurer hasn’t worked out is that if you perform half a backflip you fall flat on your face.

16:20 - That’s why the Liberals’ new policy will only help one in four of the families who will benefit from our plan.

16:30 - The budget papers actually show that under their plan the workforce participation rate will fall.

16:38 - Labor’s policy will not only deliver support to four times the number of families; it will boost the economy substantially and move towards the universal provision of affordable child care for every family.

16:56 - This is economic reform. It’s good for working families, it’s good for our economy but it’s also good for our children.

17:07 - A Labor government will invest in Australian industry and our workforce, setting them up for success today and into the future.

17:16 - We’ll create ‘Jobs and Skills Australia’ on the Infrastructure Australia model to advise on the future work opportunities and to ensure that Australians can benefit from them.

17:28 - And we will establish a national reconstruction fund to transform existing industries and the industries of tomorrow.

17:37 - We will partner with the private sector, including the superannuation industry, to revive our ability to make products and to be more self-reliant.

17:46 - Australia has always produced scientific innovations, but we haven’t always been good at commercialising them: wi-fi, the black box, Google maps, the cochlear implant or solar technology. Not long ago, solar power was seen as a useful novelty: good enough to run a pocket calculator but too expensive, too inefficient and too unreliable to power a home or a workplace.

18:15 - Australians changed that. Australian researchers and engineers, Australian scientists in universities and Australian breakthroughs in solar power reshaped the global energy grid.

18:30 - Overwhelmingly, this did lead to manufacturing and job creation, but it was overseas, not here.

18:37 - If we don’t get smart, if we don’t get serious, if we don’t get moving the same thing will happen again.

18:45 - We mine and produce every element needed to build a lithium battery, the power storage technology of the future.

18:53 - I don’t want us to miss out on jobs and investment by sending those materials overseas for another country to manufacture and then export them back once value has been added.

19:06 - I want Australia to make our own future. To do that, we can’t be afraid of the future; we have to shape it.

19:16 - The problem with this government isn’t so much that they are stuck in the past, it’s that they want the rest of Australia to go back there just to keep them company.

19:27 - The Liberals abandoned a fibre based National Broadband Network, claiming it would cost $29. 5 billion.

19:36 - Then it became $41 billion, then $49 billion, then $51 billion and then $57 billion.

19:45 - Now, of course, they are having to retrofit back to fibre.

19:50 - Their love for copper has cost taxpayers a lot of brass.

19:55 - Their insistence on looking backwards on energy, communications, transport and so much more has driven our capability downwards but our costs upward.

20:08 - Ever since the Liberals drove Holden out of the country they’ve run up the white flag on manufacturing and skills and apprentices.

20:16 - I’m not going to see us surrender any more jobs in industries and the communities that depend on them.

20:23 - My Labor government will establish the ‘Startup Year’ program to help drive innovation and increase links between universities and entrepreneurs.

20:32 - Startup loans will be offered to students and new graduates with ventures attached to a tertiary institution or designated private accelerator.

20:42 - This will assist in the identification of opportunities for commercialisation of university research.

20:49 - The government has proven incapable of developing an energy policy or dealing with climate change.

20:56 - Positive action on climate change and moving to net zero emissions by 2050 will create jobs, lower energy prices and lower emissions.

21:09 - Labor has a plan to help families and communities play their part in achieving this critical target.

21:15 - It is a plan that will make electric cars more affordable and support the rollout of community batteries.

21:23 - A Labor government will create a new energy apprenticeships program to train 10,000 young people for the energy jobs of the future.

21:33 - This will support them with up to $10,000 over the course of their apprenticeship.

21:40 - These 10,000 new apprenticeships will be available in renewable energy generation; storage and distribution, including in emerging technologies such as green hydrogen; energy efficiency upgrades; renewables manufacturing like batteries; and relevant agricultural activities.

22:00 - The rest of the world has figured this out. Cutting pollution means creating jobs.

22:20 - Every one of us hopes to grow old. More and more of us will live long enough to need extra care in our later years, but right now, that thought fills a lot of Australians with dread.

22:34 - Our age pensioners and retirees should have confidence that support will be there for them.

22:41 - None of us can say we weren’t told how to fix the system, with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety delivering a comprehensive set of recommendations for change.

22:50 - The Prime Minister must now explain why he has rejected so many of those important recommendations, such as the recommendation to require a nurse on duty in nursing homes at all times, which seems to make sense, or support for increasing the appallingly low wages of hardworking aged-care staff; or why he has opted for fewer hours of care than the royal commission recommended and delivered them much later; or why the government is congratulating itself for funding new home-care places when they aren’t even enough to clear the current waiting list.

23:33 - A Labor government will not allow older Australians to grow old alone, deprived of proper care and dignity.

23:42 - We will not forget the dedicated, mostly female staff— almost uniformly understaffed and underpaid— who care for our elderly.

23:52 - The Morrison government has not even managed to roll out the vaccine to these workers.

23:58 - Older Australians were there for us. They have paid their taxes, held communities together, raised their families and served their country in war— and in peace.

24:10 - Older Australians deserve to be respected, to feel safe, to be comforted and to be treated with the utmost dignity.

24:20 - This cannot be beyond us. We can achieve this; we must achieve this.

24:27 - A Labor government will deliver this. A Labor government will deliver that care by ensuring that every dollar spent in aged care goes to employing a guaranteed minimum level of nurses, assistants and carers, and to daily needs like decent food, rather than into the pockets of the more unscrupulous providers.

24:51 - We also support the Fair Work Commission moving quickly to meaningfully lift the wages of aged-care workers.

25:10 - We will ensure that dementia care management is core business, given that up to two in every three aged-care residents are affected.

25:19 - The security of a roof over one’s head should be available to all Australians.

25:26 - Young people despair of ever affording a first home.

25:31 - Families struggle to meet rent payments and older women are the fastest-growing group subject to homelessness.

25:38 - I’m proud to say that Labor in government will create a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, with the annual investment return to build social and affordable housing and create thousands of jobs.

25:53 - Over the first five years, this will build around 20,000 social housing properties— places like the home I grew up in.

26:05 - Our home gave us so much more than somewhere to sleep.

26:08 - It gave my mum and me pride, dignity and security, and it gave me a future— a future that led me here tonight.

26:17 - Our housing plan is good for jobs too. This initiative will create over 21,500 jobs each year, and one in 10 construction jobs created will be for apprentices.

26:32 - Last year 10,000 mums and their children fleeing family violence were turned away from refuges because there wasn’t a bed.

26:43 - Tonight, women’s crisis services across Australia will have to tell women fleeing violence they literally have nowhere to house them.

26:54 - They will sleep in their cars—or go back to dangerous situations.

26:59 - Imagine the impact that that has on children and how they feel at school the next day.

27:07 - Imagine the emotional toll on a mother, desperate, as mums are, to keep their children safe but unable to offer them more.

27:18 - We know this is happening tonight because it happens each and every day.

27:23 - We can, and we must, do better. That’s why 4,000 of the 20,000 social housing properties that we create from this funding will be allocated to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, and to older women on low incomes.

27:42 - We will also provide $100 million for crisis and transitional housing for these women at risk.

27:49 - We will build 10,000 affordable housing properties for frontline workers— the heroes of the pandemic; those nurses, police, emergency service workers and cleaners who are keeping us safe.

28:05 - Some of the worst housing standards in the world are endured by our First Nations people.

28:11 - As part of our commitment to Closing the Gap, the fund will provide $200 million for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing in remote Indigenous communities.

28:23 - Two weeks after our country stood together on Anzac Day to declare ‘Lest we forget’, one in 10 of the people who will sleep rough on the streets in Sydney tonight is a veteran— one in 10. Australia must do more to care for the brave men and women who have worn our uniform.

28:46 - This fund will provide $30 million over the first five years to build more supportive housing and fund specialist services for veterans who are either living or at risk of homelessness.

29:00 - This is a future fund that will give more Australians a future.

29:16 - More than a year ago, the government received the Respect@Work report.

29:20 - Every woman should feel safe in every workplace, including this one. The report recognised employers’ responsibility to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation from their businesses.

29:35 - Labor, in government, will work with experts, employers and unions to make sure this responsibility is clear in our law, as was recommended by the report.

29:48 - The budget spending was very much focused on the political management of problems the government itself has created over the last eight years— aged-care cuts, childcare fee increases, ignoring of women’s safety and economic security issues.

30:04 - Over these last eight long years the government has focused on itself, too often treating taxpayers’ money as if it were the Liberal Party’s and the National Party’s money.

30:13 - Sports rorts, community safety rorts and abuse of infrastructure and regional funding have grown with each year.

30:21 - Even bushfire disaster funding was allocated with political bias. And then $1 billion was spent on government advertising promoting themselves.

30:32 - In Tuesday’s budget they announced, or topped up, no less than 21 separate slush funds worth $4 billion of taxpayers’ money to splash around in the lead-up to the next election.

30:46 - In addition there’s an extraordinary $9 billion where the only information is ‘decisions taken but not announced’.

30:54 - This is just red-hot abuse. They can’t change.

30:59 - They won’t change. They don’t want to change.

31:02 - It’s this simple: if you want to clean up politics, you need a national integrity commission.

31:18 - And, if you want one that’s fair dinkum, it’ll take a Labor government.

31:25 - My fellow Australians, none of us will forget this crisis that we have lived through.

31:31 - All of us are grateful that, because of the sacrifices and unselfishness of so many, we have avoided the scale of death and trauma that we see in many other countries.

31:42 - To the Australian people, I say: you have been magnificent, you have been brave, you have been resolute.

31:51 - Now you deserve a government that is worthy of your efforts.

31:56 - It would be a disaster if we emerged from this crisis having learnt nothing and not changed at all.

32:03 - What a missed opportunity if our economy comes out the other side with nothing to show for this transformational moment but the biggest debt and deficit of all time.

32:15 - If you see this pandemic as a chance to build back stronger, Labor is on your side.

32:23 - If you believe economic policies should deliver higher wages, Labor is on your side.

32:31 - If you want more security at work, Labor is on your side.

32:37 - If you support equality for women, Labor is on your side.

32:42 - If you support cheaper child care, Labor is on your side.

32:47 - If you believe that older Australians deserve dignity and care in their later years, Labor is on your side.

32:57 - If you believe a roof over your head is up to more than market forces, Labor is on your side.

33:05 - If you get that action on climate change is an opportunity for us to emerge as a renewable energy superpower and create jobs, Labor is on your side.

33:28 - If you share our ambition for advanced manufacturing, high-value industries and a world-class services sector in a prosperous, outward looking, ambitious Australia, Labor is on your side.

33:42 - And if you think sharing our continent with the oldest continuous civilisation on earth is a source of national pride and First Nations people should be recognised in our Constitution with a voice to parliament, Labor is on your side.

34:11 - I’ve never forgotten where I came from. I’ve never lost sight of the power of government to help people realise their potential.

34:19 - I’ve never lost faith in our country’s ability to compete and win in the world.

34:26 - I truly believe this is a moment for Australia to make our own.

34:32 - What we need now is a government with the plans to seize this chance, a government driven by optimism about the future, a government powered by determination to create opportunity, a government that holds no-one back, that leaves no-one behind— a Labor government that is on your side.

35:56 - The debate is adjourned, the House stand’s adjourned until Monday, 24 May 2021 at 10am, in accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier. .