Dec 2, 2020

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Morrison Government – Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:16): What could be more symbolic than a Prime Minister appearing in this parliament projected on a screen, a virtual PM—from hollow man to hologram? That’s what we have—more promo than ScoMo. There he is in quarantine for two weeks, and he could have taken anyone with him—the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, an economic adviser or a national security adviser—but who did he take? His photographer, because that was the priority for this Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who believes you can fake it until you make it.

 

He is not a Prime Minister—more a prime marketer. We’ve seen it with the advertising campaign, paid for by taxpayers, with over a million dollars paid to Crosby Textor for feeding into their questions and answers in question time. What we see from this Prime Minister and this government is all about the marketing and never about the substance. It’s all about the announcement and never about the delivery. Look at infrastructure. There’s a $6.8 billion gap between what they said on budget night they would spend and what they’ve actually spent. You can’t actually drive on a promise; you need to drive on a road, and you need to ride on a train. You need to fix a project like Inland Rail that doesn’t even go to a port.

 

This is a government where, when you look at the announcement, you wait for the delivery and it just doesn’t happen. Remember the National Integrity Commission, announced way back in 2018? But there’s nothing—just crickets. The Emergency Response Fund is $4 billion, $200 million each year, so they’ve had $400 million available to them this year, and not a dollar has been spent. This morning, with the member for Eden-Monaro and the shadow minister Senator Watt, we were out in Braidwood talking to Rural Fire Service cadets and to the people who protected those communities. I tell you what those students in that cadet program could do with: a bit more input and a bit more funding. There is $200 million available but, from those opposite, not a dollar has been spent.

 

The arts sector rescue package—remember that? Two hundred and fifty million dollars was announced with Guy Sebastian. Twenty per cent of that has been allocated up to this point. Even Guy Sebastian has taken to social media to say, ‘What is actually going on?’ But that’s not the worst. The Boosting Female Founders Initiative is, perhaps. Two years ago it was announced, and there has been not a dollar invested and not a dollar spent, and this year in the budget they announced round 2. They haven’t spent a dollar in round 1, but they’ve announced round 2.

 

Then there’s the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, of which three per cent is available this year. Anyone would think that there hasn’t been a recession going on. Three per cent is available this year. Then there’s the NAIF, with $5 billion announced five years ago. How much has been spent? One hundred and sixty-nine million dollars. No wonder we call it the ‘no actual infrastructure fund’. Then there’s the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility. It’s a doozy. It was announced way back in May 2016. They have had no fewer than 50 media announcements and press releases. Not a dollar has been spent, and now it’s been abolished. All it produced was 50 media releases. Then there’s a range of other projects. They have a Threatened Species Recovery Fund. That’s not about small-l liberals in the Liberal Party; it’s actually about koalas and other threatened species. But what we know is that there’s no habitat they’re not prepared to rip down under this minister for koalas and other endangered species. So one of the themes of this government is that it’s all announcement, no delivery.

 

But there’s another big theme as well: the wasted recovery—waste and mismanagement. Robodebt’s the worst—an illegal, cruel scheme that led to self-harm and to people literally taking their own lives. What we get from those opposite is just nonsense, absolute nonsense. When we had the question asked at the end of question time, what we had from those opposite was just contempt for the processes here. It was pointed out that they were threatening that people would go to prison. That’s what they were threatening. At the same time, they said, ‘We’ll track you down,’ for a scheme that they knew at the time was illegal. That was what Minister Tudge had to say. There’s been a settlement that cost $1.2 billion, but they say: ‘Oh, we haven’t admitted there’s anything wrong here. We just handed over $1.2 billion. Why not? It’s only taxpayers’ money.’ Just extraordinary!

 

Then we had the NBN. We told them, the world told them and anyone who knew anything about communications told them that, funnily enough, fibre is this century’s technology, not copper. But oh, no. They had their mix. Four point five billion dollars they’re having to pay to fix up the NBN. Then there’s the Leppington Triangle. Thirty million dollars they paid for it—it was worth three million—to a Liberal Party donor—surprise, surprise!

 

Then there’s the sports rorts scandal. Remember that? It was worth $100 million. There were the coloured charts in the Prime Minister’s office, colour coded by electorate and by marginality. They were not worrying about all those voluntary sports groups that were so naive they believed in the system. Those groups spent hundreds of hours putting together applications, but they never had a chance. What they should have done was just look at the electoral pendulum.

 

So the fact is that under this government there is waste and mismanagement. It is all announcement, no delivery. But there’s something else that defines the government as well: the people who have been left behind and the people who’ve been held back. There are the people left behind in aged care during this crisis—685 deaths. The federal government are responsible for aged care. They fund it, they regulate it and they manage it. Yet there was no COVID plan. This week we learned that they didn’t have a COVID plan for people with disabilities either. We learned that from the disability royal commission. We know that, when it comes to child care, not just older people but little people as well miss out under this government. Childcare workers were the first people thrown off support for wage subsidies. We know as well that casuals, arts workers, university workers, dnata workers and people who are visa holders are all missing out on support.

 

Labor, though, has a plan. We have a plan with an emphasis on follow-up and delivery, a plan to create jobs as our first priority. We have a plan for child care economic reform, not welfare, that will increase participation of women in the workforce, a plan for a future built in Australia—whether it’s building our trains here, whether it be a power transmission network for the 21st century that will help to make us a renewable energy superpower. We want an economy that’s resilient. We want to continue to export resources, but we want to value-add here where we can and make sure that we create high-value jobs here.

 

That’s our priority, an economy that’s resilient, one that recognises the weaknesses that have been exposed during this period. We want a future where no-one is left behind and no-one is held back, a future where aspiration is embraced. We want to create wealth as well as be concerned about its distribution. What that needs is a government that’s focused on the national interest, not a government that’s obsessed with marketing, that’s obsessed with advertising, that is obsessed with having the announcement and not worrying about the follow-up or the delivery. But with this Prime Minister we’ve seen the priorities exposed, this week, yet again. It’s a government that comes in here during question time, gets every question with all the slogans that have been worked out by Crosby Textor, the answers all worked out as well, and there’s nothing about the real concerns of Australians.

 

Today we asked about those people, such as workers in the gig sector and Qantas workers and others who’ve lost their jobs and been left behind, but they’re too busy self-congratulating themselves, too busy with their hubris and their arrogance. Australians deserve better. We deserve a government that’s concerned about the interests of the Australian people—rather than concerned about themselves, like this government is.