The Morrison Government Budget - 13/05/2021

13 May 2021


I rise today to talk about this week's budget announcement by the Morrison government. This budget is, largely, a missed opportunity to set out a vision for the Australian people and to help those most in need of support from their government, particularly in these turbulent times of a global pandemic. It is a political fix, rather than a strong policy vision for this nation.

I want to run through some of the particular issues where I think this was a missed opportunity. The first was the opportunity to set out a strong plan to transition to a sustainable economy and see some real action on climate change from this government. Canberrans are telling me every day that this is what they desperately want to see from this government as Australia increasingly becomes an embarrassment on the world stage. This budget could have been an opportunity to really invest in renewable energy, to make Australia the renewable energy superpower that we know it can be. Instead, in his speech the Treasurer doubled down on not quite committing to getting to net zero by 2050, saying, 'Preferably we'll get there.' That's not good enough. We need a commitment and a plan to get there.

Aged care is obviously a centrepiece of this budget, and rightfully so, as it is in crisis. The system has been neglected, and that has led to the neglect of our vulnerable older Australians—our grandparents, our parents, our loved ones—who have suffered in a system that is simply not acceptable in a country like Australia. But don't be fooled by the large headline figure, as it falls well short of what the royal commission actually recommended to fix the system. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to aged-care workers from the United Workers Union, and they were very disappointed to see that this money will not fix the crisis that they deal with every day. What was incredibly clear was that these workers are so dedicated to the residents that they serve every day. That is why they keep turning up to work, really up against it, trying to provide these people with decent care. This plan does nothing for their wages. It doesn't guarantee that we will have 24-hour registered nurses in facilities, which people have been asking for for years. We are still looking into the detail, but I think this falls short of what we needed to see for aged care in this budget.

With child care also, there is nothing for the workers, who work so hard and do an incredibly dedicated and professional job caring for our youngest Australians and educating them each and every day. Labor's plan for more affordable child care will benefit 97 per cent of families, whereas this plan from the government does not go anywhere near that. It only benefits families with two or more children in child care at one time, and even families with two or more children usually don't have them both in child care at the same time, as families know.

Then there are our universities. Representing the seat of Canberra, I represent a university town, a real centre of excellence, and I have seen it decimated by this government. There was no help for our universities through the pandemic. This is the time we should be investing in the future, investing in our young people to enable them to attend university, and investing in the universities to do the research that we need to tackle the emerging challenges. Instead we saw funding cut by 9.3 per cent again, confirming that the fee hikes, which this government has already announced and passed through the parliament, are actually to make up for other cuts in Commonwealth funding to our universities. We saw no support from this government for universities or their workers through the pandemic, and of course it's the casual workers at universities, mostly women, who are the first to lose their jobs all around the country, including in Canberra.

Unsurprisingly, we've seen nothing for the poor, for low-income people, in this budget. Research shows that the low-income tax offset will actually benefit more mid- and high-income earners, as people on really low incomes don't earn enough to benefit from it. We've seen no increase to the JobSeeker payment, apart from the pathetic $3.50 a day that was already announced. We've even seen a four-year waiting period introduced for newly arrived migrants, including refugees, which means they will have to wait four years to receive the family tax benefit, a payment that is about addressing child poverty. This is a government that wants to see refugee children living in poverty, and that is an absolute disgrace.

I look forward to tonight's budget reply from Anthony Albanese, which will set out an alternative vision for this nation, one about equality. Equality is the driving mission of the Labor Party, not something to do when we have a political problem to fix.