ANTHONY ALBANESE – OPINION PIECE – SIGNED, SEALED, BUT NOT DELIVERED BY CANBERRA – TUESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2020
ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
SIGNED, SEALED, BUT NOT DELIVERED BY CANBERRA
In government, talk is cheap, but delivery matters.
With the Morrison government well into its eighth year, each day it becomes clearer that while Scott Morrison is great at making announcements, he just can’t deliver.
Across the range of government activity, there is a widening gap between Mr Morrison’s rhetoric and his on-the-ground delivery.
The Prime Minister is always there for the photo op, but never there for the follow-up.
Take for example the $4bn Emergency Response Fund, created in April 2019.
According to program guidelines published by the Department of Finance, the government can withdraw up to $200m a year from the fund for “emergency response and natural disaster recovery and preparedness’’ where it believes existing programs are insufficient.
Since it was created, the government has not drawn down a dollar from this ERF.
That’s despite the massive damage caused by the “Black Summer” fires nearly a year ago.
If ever there was a time to access this fund, it was this year. Similarly, in May Mr Morrison announced a $650m “boost for bushfire recovery’’ to demonstrate his commitment to helping bushfire victims.
It was a big announcement.
But the National Bushfire Recovery Agency recently reported the agency had delivered just 1.5 per cent of its funding as of July 24.
Then there is the great infrastructure con.
Remember all of those budget night promises and glossy brochures about record infrastructure spending over the past eight years?
Since it was elected in 2013, the Coalition has spent $6.8bn less on roads and railways than it announced in its budgets.
The money never materialised.
You can’t drive on a media release.
Four years ago the government created the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to help farmers improve their water efficiency by investing in infrastructure.
This year the government scrapped the fund, having not released a dollar in loans.
But despite the lack of delivery, the government has issued no fewer than 50 media releases seeking kudos for the scheme and spent $615,986 in administration costs.
As recently as last week, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told parliament his government was getting on with the job of building new dams.
But since the government was elected seven years ago promising it would build 100 dams, it has not completed a single new dam anywhere in the nation.
It’s like the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: the truth does not seem to matter.
It’s all about the spin.
More than five years ago the government created a special Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to drive investment and development projects in the nation’s north.
Five years later, only $218m has been delivered.
That’s 5c in every dollar promised.
This fund would be more accurately called the No Actual Infrastructure Facility.
During last year’s election campaign, the government made numerous announcements in marginal electorates promising small traffic projects and new carparks from its Urban Congestion Fund.
It has since delivered only 20 per cent of the available funds.
However, it has already set aside $10.6m to advertise the achievements of the fund over the next two years.
Then there is the $52m Regional Connectivity Program for telecommunications, announced last year and bolstered with a further $30m in this year’s budget.
As of September 15, nothing had been spent.
When promoting his HomeBuilder scheme, Housing Minister Michael Sukkar boasted it would create “hundreds of thousands’’ of jobs for tradies.
But that just wasn’t true.
It was a figure pulled from the air to create a headline.
The Treasury has confirmed it will create about 9600 jobs.
And according to the Australian Construction Industry Forum, 42,000 tradies will lose their jobs between now and July next year.
Scott Morrison never lets the facts get in the way of a good photo opportunity.
The government announced in the recent budget it would invest $1.5bn to revive Australian manufacturing.
But this year it will invest a paltry $40m in the program.
Two years ago, the government announced its Boosting Female Founders initiative to provide $18.6m in grants for female entrepreneurs.
No grants have been awarded.
But there have been yet more media releases about a new round of funding.
While the level of this government’s misrepresentation is frustrating, at times it is almost comical.
On October 30, following weeks of pressure from the Opposition in parliament about his non-delivery, Mr Morrison announced he would create a new Policy Implementation Committee.
The Prime Minister was seeking to show he would get on top of the problem.
However, what he did not say was he had already created a policy delivery committee in 2018, led by Education Minister Dan Tehan.
Mr Morrison was creating a delivery committee designed to replace a delivery committee that had not delivered.
That says it all.
This opinion piece was first published in the Herald Sun on Tuesday, 8 December 2020.