28 October 2020

 I rise today to speak on behalf of my community about the Morrison government's shared mediocrity. This budget that was delivered a little while ago has laid bare what many of us have known for some time about this seven-year-old Liberal government: it has no vision for this nation. Despite all of the grandstanding, the bluster and the spin, and despite the big spend on advertising campaigns, this budget has been revealed as an uninspiring document of mere modest ambition. There was a chance for the government to seek to redefine Australia's future at a time when we need it most, during the worst recession in almost a century. Indeed, we're left to dwell on a massive missed opportunity.

Never before in this country has so much money been spent with so little to show for it. The spending is mind-boggling and eye-watering. The same Liberals who described Labor's relatively restrained spending during the GFC as a debt and deficit disaster have now racked up a record $1 trillion in debt and the biggest budget deficit since World War II. Let's think about that: $1 trillion is $1,000 billion or a million million dollars. These are the same Liberals who shamelessly printed 'Back in black' coffee mugs and showed them off after last year's budget only because it forecast an operating surplus, a surplus that was never delivered and never will be by this government. These are the same Liberals who frequently assert that they are superior economic managers but who, even before the pandemic hit, had presided over seven years of stagnant wages and declining living standards in this country. These are the same Liberals who paid $30 million for a block of land valued at $3 million. Yet, the biggest sin of this government on display here is its sheer hypocrisy.

The worst feature of this budget is that it leaves too many Australians behind. Those Australians who've struggled the most and sacrificed the most through this economic crisis have been snubbed. It's unfair, and it's wrong. The budget has no genuine plan for jobs. There is nothing for women, nothing for child care, nothing for aged care, nothing for social housing, nothing for older workers trying to enter the workforce, nothing for education. There is no plan to address the structural and societal issues that are holding this nation back. The government have failed on all of this while cutting JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments earlier than they should have. In this budget we needed a bold vision, a soaring ambition. Instead, we got Liberal short-termism and repeated mediocrity.

There is nothing in this budget for the people of Brand, the people I represent across the cities of Rockingham and Kwinana, but that doesn't surprise me—the Liberal Party has not made a single commitment to the people of Rockingham for the last two federal election campaigns. Families living in Rockingham and Kwinana should be feeling safer and more secure after this budget, but they are not. This budget falls well short of what is needed to create jobs and boost our local economy. It's not a wealthy part of Australia where I'm from and where I live. Many of my constituents are hard workers and do their best to support their families but they don't have much cash left over after they have paid for housing, child care, food and other essentials. Many of these families are struggling with the higher cost of living.

The cost of child care for families in Rockingham and Kwinana is continuing to rise much faster than the national average and is well above the rate of inflation. According to the latest data from the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment, child-care fees in Rockingham rose by 5.8 per cent during the 12 months to March this year, while fees in Kwinana were up 5.4 per cent. Nationally, child-care fees have soared by about 36 per cent since the election of the Liberal government in 2013. Child-care fees in this country are among the highest in the world. The government's child-care subsidy support, which is indexed to the CPI, is failing to keep up with the out-of-control fee increases.

Only Labor can fix this broken child-care system. Anthony Albanese has committed to introducing the 'Working Family Childcare Boost' to cut child-care fees and put more money in the pockets of working families. Under this plan, 97 per cent of all families in the system will save between $600 and $2,900 a year. No family will be worse off. This will allow more women to work full-time or increase their hours. It is an important structural reform that will increase Australia's productivity by ensuring more women can return to the workforce, while also ensuring that more children enjoy early childhood education. This is a double boost to the productivity of this nation. The need for this reform is way overdue.

So there is nothing in this budget to help the people of Rockingham and Kwinana with child care. But there is also another great shame in this budget: it contains no initiatives for infrastructure projects in Brand, including the long-delayed Karnup train station. Karnup has been a priority for more than 10 years but it is still on the drawing board. It has been on the drawing board for a long time because the Liberals have refused to contribute one cent of federal funding to it. Karnup will service the residents of Baldivis, Secret Harbour, Golden Bay and Singleton and would take pressure off parking at Warnbro train station, which has been at capacity for years. But Lakelands is in the federal seat of Canning, and that is why it was given the green light. The Morrison government decided to bankroll Lakelands as a favour to the member for Canning, while other projects have been denied—just another example of the blatant pork-barrelling we see so often from the Liberals. They deserve a gold medal for it. We all remember sports rorts. We know they are experts. Other projects that missed out in Brand include an upgrade to the Thomas Road freight link and the Baldivis Sporting Complex. Both projects would create jobs in a region where the unemployment rate is above the national average. I've continuously and repeatedly asked the government to help fund these projects, and I will continue to advocate for the people of Brand, even if this Liberal government has no plan for them.

The government's failure to provide any support for the people of Brand or even promise to support the people of Brand over the last two elections just proves that, when the Liberals come into government, they don't govern for all the country; they just govern for their own, and they are all too happy to leave people like those in Rockingham and Kwinana, who support a Labor candidate like me, behind in their wake. It's a shame and it should stop. All Liberals in this place should really consider their position on how they should now start to support all people of this country instead of just their mates.

In the days after the budget was released, I had the pleasure of meeting two of my local constituents, Kelly and Campbell. Kelly has three kids and extensive experience in administration and accounts, and Campbell is a Navy veteran with extensive experience in logistics. Like so many others, they are keen to get back into the workforce and are jumping through every hoop in order to do so, despite the many challenges 2020 has thrown their way. But this Liberal government threw another roadblock in their way in the form of the new age-targeted hiring subsidy scheme. Kelly and Campbell's only crime is that they are both over 35 years old, but this budget ignored them. They, along with 928,000 other Australians aged over 35 on unemployment benefits, have been deliberately excluded from this scheme. How can this be fair?

I have often spoken in this place about the need to provide assistance and more opportunities to young people in my electorate and others, particularly in the face of significant university cuts and TAFE cuts by this government. So this new measure, while initially welcomed, has a number of issues of its own. To hand something to one vulnerable group while taking away from another equally as vulnerable group is a disastrous failure of economic and social policy. Only last week ABS data confirmed that young people and older Australians were among the most heavily impacted by this year's downturn, with payroll jobs worked by people aged 70 and over decreasing by 12.1 per cent and those worked by people aged 20 to 29 declining by 6.1 per cent. With a trillion dollar debt, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this government would surely provide ample support to both those older Australians and those people attempting to enter the workforce for the first time. You might think that, but you would be wrong.

This is just symptomatic of the Liberal government's inability to walk and chew gum at the same time—to do two things at once. Throwing a stack of money at one problem and hoping the others just go away is not good governance and it's not good government. Australia must do better. We must do more, and we have to start doing it now. People like Kelly and Campbell depend on it.

We've heard a lot of chat in this place and a lot of good discussion recently about the state of Victoria and its incredible efforts to crush the second wave of COVID-19. In the process, they have proven that it's better for governments and ministers to listen to medical experts than the naysayers and the cranks. As I said yesterday in the main chamber, I think the Victorian people are heroes, yet many of them have emerged from this lockdown feeling let down by the Morrison government. If you can cast your mind back to the beginning of this crisis, the Prime Minister told us we were all in this together and he promised to work cooperatively with all the states. He held out hope of being a national leader, of someone who would be above partisan politics, but how false that has proven to be. In recent weeks we've seen the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other ministers line up to criticise the Victorian government's response to COVID-19. Yes, we admit that everyone knows mistakes have been made in Victoria, as they have around the country, but the Morrison government should not be throwing stones given its own record.

They've shamefully presided over the deaths of 683 older Australians in Victorian nursing homes. It's a federal government responsibility. You can't point and pretend it's not. They allowed the RubyPrincess to dock in Sydney Harbour, which allowed those passengers to spread COVID-19 across the entire nation. They are even incapable of managing the COVIDSafe app, which we discovered this week has only been used to trace 17 cases that were not otherwise identified by contact tracing. So this government paid $70 million for an app that traced 17 cases. That's $4.1 million per case. Think about that and think about how Australia has had more than 27,000 recorded cases of COVID-19, presumably involving hundreds of thousands of contacts, and yet this government's app has only traced down 17 of those, at $4.1 million each I might add. As the Deputy Prime Minister might say, what a bargain! That's the government's record, and perhaps that's why they are so keen to frequently shift blame to the states.

As a Western Australian, I've seen how the government is prepared to play politics with the pandemic. Back in June, the government sided with Clive Palmer, a dodgy Queensland billionaire who tells lies, in the legal challenge against WA's border restrictions and against the advice of the state's Chief Medical Officer. As we know, the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General later sniffed the political wind and claimed that they had withdrawn from the case but only after proceedings had finished. The damage had already been done. The Commonwealth's evidence remains on the record ready for the High Court to hear Mr Palmer's border challenge next week. Let's wait and see what comes up on Monday.

In recent weeks, senior ministers have again ramped up their attacks on the McGowan government over its border policy. They just can't help themselves and they won't help themselves. It's clear yet again that they would rather smear a state Labor government than listen to the official health advice. But the people of Western Australia know the truth. This Liberal government was fully prepared to put their health at risk to push forward their own ideologies, and Western Australians will never forget that.

I want to finish today with one more glaring example of the scandal and mismanagement that has become a distinguishing feature of this government. Under the Liberals, Australia Post, an institution Australians know and love, has lost its way. In Brand, it has slashed postal services to 18 suburbs, and many of my constituents are angry that the government gave the green light to these cuts. The impact of the cuts on affected suburbs will be to reduce mail delivery from daily to two or three days a week, increase interstate letter delivery time frames to a minimum of seven full days, up from a minimum of three business days, and potentially also delay the delivery of small to medium-sized parcels, as these products were carried by the postal workers whose delivery frequency is now cut in half. This news was galling enough, but Australians were outraged to be told of these cuts to the mail service at the same time as senior Australia Post executives were trying to hand themselves millions of dollars in bonuses. Then last week we found out that Australia Post had spent nearly $20,000 on luxury watches for four of its executives. I think they're called Cartier watches. It is right the CEO has stood aside while an investigation is carried out, but this latest scandal is a symptom of deeper problems at Australia Post. This government has stacked the board with former Liberal politicians, party hacks and mates of the Prime Minister, and it has allowed and in fact encouraged this once-respected institution to run down our postal service. It's crucial that the focus of Australia Post returns squarely to what matters: community services, consumers, its workforce and enabling the broader digital economy. Australia Post belongs to the Australian people and not to the Liberal Party of Australia. People won't stand for this Liberal Party and this Liberal government wrecking the great Australian institution that is Australia Post. People are more fond of those red letterboxes than you might imagine, and they will not forget it when you take them away. We hear about it again and again. Save Australia Post.