Sep 3, 2020

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Coalition Government – Thursday, 3 September 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:18): This Morrison recession is the first in 30 years. For many Australians it will be an experience that they have never had before and, indeed, that no-one ever wants to have. We have one million unemployed already, but on top of that we’ll have 400,000 more unemployed by Christmas. These figures don’t really indicate what happens during a recession. What happens is that people lose their livelihoods. People will lose their homes. Families will break up. It will have a devastating impact on Australians, and, we know, on their families and their communities as well. During a recession, we see closed shopfronts. We see a cumulative impact, which is why we have sought from the very beginning to limit the impact of what is an international incident—COVID.


But the fact is that this government has been dragged to any action that it’s made. We know that this week we were due to have snapback according to the government. The reason we had to sit—this from a government that doesn’t like parliamentary sittings—was that its legislation was all due to cut out in September. They said that all government support could be withdrawn. So we haven’t had snapback but we have had rollback. We have had cuts to JobKeeper, cuts to JobSeeker and cuts to the wages of low-income workers. We have had it at a time when the economy is struggling.


We don’t argue that wage subsidies should be there forever. We have never done that. No-one has said that. But what we say is that you don’t withdraw support at a time when the economy needs it, because it will make the recession deeper and longer. Deeper and longer will be the Morrison recession, because of the Prime Minister’s arrogance.


The Prime Minister tomorrow will chair something called the national cabinet. It is not national and it is not a cabinet. There is more accuracy, I reckon, in the name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. What we’ve seen over a period of many months is the Prime Minister being prepared to make big announcements, including border closures of states, when it’s convenient, but then go out there and undermine it. What we then saw was it transition into a meeting whereby the premiers tell each other what they’re going to do and the Prime Minister announces it at the end—a non-participatory chairing of the so-called national cabinet. We have seen tough talk on borders, and today we got it again, this from the Prime Minister who let the Ruby Princess in and let Tony Abbott out—two mistakes when it comes to border closures in this country.


We saw a Prime Minister who spoke about early action. But let’s be fair dinkum here. He supported closing the border to China but not to the United States and not to anywhere else. There was no testing when you arrived at Sydney or Melbourne airport—straight through, not even temperature testing let alone quarantines. He opposed school closures before they happened. He opposed lockdowns before they happened. He opposed Newstart being increased before JobSeeker came along. He called that ‘unfunded empathy’. That was the term that this Prime Minister used when we were arguing the case. And on wage subsidies, the JobKeeper program, this Prime Minister said yesterday that he didn’t hesitate. Oh, yes! AAP on 26 March headlined this on wage subsidies:

… Prime Minister Scott Morrison isn’t having a bar of it.


We know that, because he said the same thing to us privately, in the private meetings that were being held. He said it everywhere. What we have is a Prime Minister whose only addiction and only consistency is that everything goes to marketing. We’ve had JobKeeper, JobSeeker, JobTrainer, JobMaker—everything gets tested. HomeBuilder—even though not a dollar has gone out on that program. It’s more promo than Scomo for this Prime Minister. Remember the Defence ad at the height of the bushfires? He couldn’t pick up the phone to Shane Fitzsimmons and tell him that Defence was involved, but they had the ad ready, complete with the ‘donate to the Liberal Party’ button.


Then we come to aged care, summarised in one word by the royal commissioners when they brought their interim report down: neglect. It still didn’t result in any action, even though we saw in January and February internationally the need to get people out of nursing homes and into hospital if they were infected. We saw Newmarch and Dorothy Henderson Lodge—there were reports on them that were buried by this government. The bells were ringing, but no-one was listening. As of yesterday, 460 elderly Australians who have helped build this country have passed away—nursing-home residents. We see ants and maggots in open wounds, we see untreated infections, we see shocking accounts of thousands of sexual assaults in aged-care facilities. News Corp’s 360 campaign is showing more leadership than this Prime Minister and this government. And in the Senate today we saw Minister Colbeck censured. It’s the first time that’s happened in more than half a decade, and what did we see from this Prime Minister? He just dismissed it all. He said, ‘Graham Richardson got censured.’ You bet. And he resigned from the Senate, not just from the ministry. The fact is that this minister is not up to the job and he should go, but so should Minister Taylor, so should Minister Sukkar—they’re all lining up at the door.


This is a government without vision. We know that from last year. The economy hasn’t headed south just because of COVID. Its starting position was so weak. We had growth below trend. Every quarter while this man has been the Prime Minister, and the Treasurer has occupied his spot, has been below trend. We saw wages flatlining, productivity going backwards, consumer demand going backwards, business investment going backwards—every key economic indicator. That was the starting point. They’re just occupying office rather than doing something with it. We’ve heard no plan for the economy. There’s been no social policy advancement, there’s no agenda for the environment and they don’t have an energy policy. They are just there to stop us being there. That’s what defines them: what they’re against rather than what they’re for. Tony Abbott, of course, said that. They don’t even have the ticker to take on someone like the member for Hughes over the extraordinary comments that he’s made about hydroxychloroquine—dangerous misadventure, inappropriate from any member of parliament.


What will be the legacy of this government? They may as well be a bunch of waxworks, a government designed by Madame Tussauds. Take a selfie with any one of them, put it on Instagram and try and convince some of your friends that they’re real, that they are a government. There’s no responsibility. There’s no accountability. It’s all politics. They’re all announcement, no delivery. They’re always there for the photo op, never there for the follow-up. We heard it today, graphically, from the Prime Minister and the agriculture minister when the member for Eden-Monaro asked her first question, about a $200 million fund, annually in financial years, for bushfires—$150 million for recovery and $50 million for resilience. They said it wasn’t necessary. There are people living in vans! The woman whom the Prime Minister forced to shake his hand is living in a van with her young kid in Cobargo, but nothing’s needed. What did they say? It’ll be all available again next year. Next year they can make another promise and deliver not one cent.