Oct 29, 2020

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – THURSDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:32): We have seen during this fortnight, both in this chamber and, most importantly, in Senate estimates, exactly where this government’s priorities lie. They lie in the 24-hour media cycle and they lie in politics. They don’t lie in the national interest. What we’ve seen is the contrast between what this government announces and what it actually delivers. What we’ve seen is how much waste this government is responsible for, how it prioritises looking after its mates rather than looking after the national interest and how, arising from this pandemic, there’s no legacy. There’s no attempt to look at what’s been identified during this crisis—the weaknesses in our national economy, the weaknesses in terms of our resilience and being able to manufacture things ourselves, and how we can emerge from this crisis stronger than we went into it.

 

The fact is that this government will have nothing to show from this except for a $1 trillion debt, rising to $1.7 trillion over the next decade. How they managed to have $98 billion of new spending in the budget without any issues of substance in terms of economic reform is, quite frankly, beyond me. But for this government it’s all about marketing and spin. The announcement is the endgame in itself. It’s about a Prime Minister and ministers who treat taxpayers’ money as if it were Liberal Party money or National Party money. This is a government with no vision, just division; big on the photo-op, never there for the follow-up. It’s a government that still hasn’t delivered a plan for aged care.

 

Today in question time I asked about PPE, a fundamental issue. More than half of the requests from aged-care facilities for PPE have been rejected by this government. We asked about the Emergency Response Fund, where they set up a $4 billion fund, with $200 million each year, and yet not a single dollar of the first year’s $200 million has been spent. Anyone would think there were no issues with bushfire recovery or with resilience in the lead-up to the next season. We asked as well about a whole range of the rorts which are there. This government comes to the dispatch box and speaks about manufacturing. But do you know what? We now know that it spent more on sports rorts than it has allocated for manufacturing in the next year. That is its priority.

 

And, of course, the government forgot about women in the budget. They just forgot. They forgot that in order to grow the economy and to grow back stronger you need to concentrate on the three Ps of economic growth. We put forward a plan for childcare reform through the shadow minister that will deal with the three Ps of economic growth that you need. This will really boost productivity, it will boost workforce participation of women and it will also assist with population by providing economic security for people to make decisions going forward. It’s a plan that is about serious economic reform—lifting the cap, increasing the subsidy to 90 per cent and smoothing out the taper rate so that the disincentive that’s there in the system for women to work a fourth or fifth day is removed. Those opposite just say no. They say that women can ride on roads. There’s precedent for that and their obsession over women’s issues with regard to driving on roads and what they can do, because when we asked during the Eden-Monaro by-election about maternity facilities at Yass hospital the Prime Minister responded he was putting in an extra lane on the Barton Highway—the world’s first birthing lane there on the Barton Highway!

 

When we raised women’s issues after the budget, one of the things that they spoke about was the Boosting Female Founders Initiative—$18 million. You might recall the day after the budget the Prime Minister talking about that. It was $18 million announced on 20 November 2018. It was reannounced on 21 November and reannounced on 17 March 2020. But guess what? They haven’t spent a single dollar, not one of the $18 million. You know what they did in the budget? They announced a second round. They haven’t allocated a dollar in the first round, but they have announced a second round. Who says they get ahead of themselves?

 

What we have seen is revelation after revelation of rorted programs and dodgy dealings—sports rorts, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Badgerys Creek land deal, $1.1 million for Crosby Textor, the Liberal Party pollsters, to do marketing on the recovery and $15 million of taxpayers’ money on those ads and billboards around the country that provide no information for people, none whatsoever. It’s just straight party-political marketing. Then when the issue came out about the $20,000, not $12,000, Cartier watches that were given to four executives, the Prime Minister showed the greatest faux outrage that we have seen from him. There was no outrage about the $30 million for Badgerys Creek, no outrage about the sports rorts saga done in his office with colour coded sheets and no outrage about the other regional rorts fund that have been allocated by this government, but we saw outrage and immediate action on this. She had to stand aside. Do you remember that? That’s because they knew that the next day the ASIC abuse of taxpayers’ funds were coming as well. Think about this: why would bureaucrats think that taxpayers’ money wasn’t subject to the same abuse by them that they see ministers and this Prime Minister engaging in? They have set the precedent for this with the funnelling of money to Crosby Textor.

 

The Prime Minister said, ‘If you are good at your job you will get a job.’ So how come Angus Taylor still has his? We just had a question from the Manager of Opposition Business about the minister giving a second reading summing-up speech on the wrong bill. Maybe he downloaded it off some website somewhere! We still don’t know where that document about the Sydney City Council came from. We do know that it was fraudulent. We do know that.

 

The fact is that there’s a contagion of corruption that has gone from this government to the Public Service, a contagion of the attitude which is: public money, taxpayers’ money, is fair game. You can abuse it. You can use it for partisan political purposes. The person who sits in the chair of Prime Minister is less Prime Minister and more first mate. That’s what we know. He’s turned the Administrative Appeal Tribunal into ‘mate keeper’: 70 different appointments of former Liberal and National Party MPs, state and federal, across the board.

 

We also see the announcements that don’t result in anything: NAIF, a three per cent spend; the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility, 50 media releases since 2016, then abolished without a dollar going forward; arts, $250 million, with not a dollar going forward; the Recycling Investment Fund—the announcement’s recycled, but not a single dollar is flowing; and the Regional Connectivity Program, announced in March 2019, added to in the last budget, with another $30 million, lifting up to $82 million, but they still haven’t spent a dollar there. Everything with this PM is an IOU, an IOU to the Australian people that is never paid back. If announcements were a form of renewable energy, we would be a renewable energy superpower today under this government. It is a government and Prime Minister defined by its arrogance and its hubris and by looking after itself and its mates first and the public second.

 

Arising out of this crisis, Australia deserves better. Australian Labor will give it better. That’s why we put forward a plan for childcare reform. That’s why we put forward a plan for a future made in Australia, looking after jobs as our first priority, making sure that the Australian national interest is looked after. Those opposite just engage in short-term politics and looking after their mates day after day, which is why they’ll be rejected at the next election. (Time expired)