Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (15:23): We’ve heard a lot about how we’re all in this together during the pandemic crisis. Indeed, Australians have been magnificent. Our nurses, our teachers, our early childhood educators, our supermarket workers, our cleaners, our truck drivers and our public transport workers have all kept this nation going. But, from those opposite, what we’re seeing is a return to the old ideological positions that they hold so dear, with people being left behind—casual workers, dnata workers, arts workers, university workers and council employees all left behind. That’s consistent, because during this crisis we’ve also learnt that of those who suffered from a previous crisis earlier this year, the bushfire victims, just four per cent have received any support from this government. They too have continued to be left behind, impacted by drought, then by bushfires and then by the pandemic.
Now, of course, the snapback has begun. There we were. On Monday, for childcare workers—essential workers—three days after an absolute guarantee from this Prime Minister that JobKeeper would be in place at least until September, it was announced that it would be ripped away from them from next week. We know that 95 per cent of childcare workers are women. So this is a reverse Titanic from this government—women and children put last by this government.
In just the three weeks since this parliament sat, we’ve seen the recession announced. Remember last year’s budget—the ‘back in black’ grand statements and the mugs that were produced? Now, it’s ‘I see red,’ from this government. This government promised the budget was back in black. Well, now it is in deep, deep red. Then we saw the $60 billion accounting bungle—$60 billion!—announced late on a Friday afternoon. It is the largest in history—one you could see from space! It’s such a mess. Here they were: all of these companies apparently had exactly 1,500 employees, and no-one noticed—not 1,493, not 1,510, but precisely 1,500—a $60 billion error and a three-million-worker error from this government. Such a mess. The dollar figures are so wrong. Frankly, it’s only a matter of time until Angus Taylor, in a panic, claims that it was downloaded from the City of Sydney website! It’s only a matter of time before that becomes the excuse for this government, which won’t accept responsibility for anything.
That was on one Friday and then the Friday after we saw robodebt, a $720 million bungle—373,000 Australians hit with illegal debt notices, notices that the government knew were illegal, and when we asked the question today they wouldn’t say when they found that out. We know that there were real human consequences behind the automation that went in from this government. It’s time we put humans back into Human Services. But this government would rather just contract out public services. They’d rather bring in automation. We now know that they won’t even apologise. Today, again, we saw that contempt. How many people who received these notices have died? We know that it occurred. We know that there was real tragedy involved, as a direct result of the policies of this government.
But it’s not just all of these mistakes, one after the other. We then had the housing package, designed so that no-one could access it—more catches than the Rex Hunt Fishing Show. All of those with a lazy $150,000 sitting around who earn under $125,000 can renovate their home—a pretty decent renovation. And today it changed from ‘renovation rescue’—it’s gone. It has become the slogan that dare not speak its name. If they had spent as much time designing a proper program as they did working out a slogan to describe it, perhaps it would have been better off. We know that there will be very few additional builds because of this. These would be projects that were ready to go anyway, projects that are now being subsidised by the taxpayer. Why have they gone down this track, even though the member for Blaxland and I have been out there campaigning for well over a month now, with practical suggestions for the government? Why? Because they would rather do anything than have something with ‘public’ associated with it. So, there is no new public housing, no renovation of public housing and not even affordable housing for essential workers, which is being undertaken by superannuation funds and by others in local government—contempt for those people.
They could have looked at the program implemented by the member for Sydney during the GFC—21,000 new homes and 70,000 renovated homes, lifting up that capital value that stays with the public sector, giving people pride in where they live by updating their homes with those renovations. If they did that, they could also have apprentices and trainees on the job, which they can’t do under their scheme. The PM says that he believes in miracles. Anyone hoping to navigate their way through this maze had better believe in them too, because it’s the only way that you could work that out.
And of course we have the ongoing JobKeeper debacles, with some people missing out as others, working side by side, receive multiples of their income. We have a government in denial, as we saw today, about the arts and entertainment sector. Somehow they’re doing okay, according to the minister. ‘Everything is just hunky-dory.’ We’ve seen other measures brought in during this period also. Australia Post changes were snuck in under the cover of the pandemic that is out there, providing for fewer workers and fewer services, particularly in regional communities.
Throughout it all, of course, we have seen from this government no transparency whatsoever—the Friday night announcements. Three Fridays ago we had the $60 billion mistake. Two weeks ago we had the $720 million robodebt payment. Last Friday we were waiting. What was this going to be? Well, they realised it was a long weekend, so they kept it till the Monday of a long weekend before they announced that they were ripping off the JobKeeper program from the essential workers who have looked after our kids. It’s bad for women and bad for children—essential workers just dismissed by this mob.
Over and over we see this government taking no responsibility for anything. We heard the questions asked by the Manager of Opposition Business. This government takes no responsibility. They never put their hand up and say, under the Westminster system, ‘Yes, I got something wrong’—whether it’s sports rorts, whether it’s the letters that magically appeared or were downloaded from imaginary websites for the City of Sydney, whether it’s the debt which they doubled, whether it’s productivity going backwards and all the economic indicators that were so shocking. They’re just deluded. That’s why they could stand up at this dispatch box and say the budget was back in black. The only way that would happen would be if they turned off the lights. That’s the only way that that would happen. The budget wasn’t back in black. They picked the wrong AC/DC song. This government should be characterised by another AC/DC song, ‘Dirty deeds done dirt cheap’, because that defines the way that the government operates.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.