The budget was a missed opportunity

October 28, 2020

The budget that we've just seen was a missed opportunity. In fewer than 10 days since the budget, we've already, found that many of the big-ticket promises were completely empty—puffed up but, in reality, delivering little. They had all the substance of fairy floss and there's no better example than JobMaker, the wage subsidy for young people. It was touted as delivering 450,000 jobs. In fact, the language was really tricky. It's going to support 450,000 jobs. Everyone was getting the sense that it would be the number of jobs created. In reality, we now know that 45,000 jobs would be directly supported by this program. That is a huge disappointment, like a balloon deflating, for all the hopes of anyone under 35 looking for work. Of course, there was never hope for those over 35 in this budget.

I'm much more interested in looking at what wasn't in this budget than what was. There was a trillion dollars of debt but nothing for unemployed people over 35; a trillion dollars of debt but nothing for child care; a trillion dollars of debt and nothing for aged care. In fact, there was nothing in any part of this budget for women or the work that women do. There was nothing for travel agents. There was nothing for the family-run coach and bus companies hit by COVID. There was nothing to tackle climate change—and this comes at the same time that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is calling on Scott Morrison for bold action from Australia on climate change. There is nothing bold in this budget at all. Job creation has been outsourced to the private sector.

By contrast, we can see that there should have been opportunities to, for example, improve social housing and to upgrade and maintain properties. There would be instant jobs there for tradies right across the country, in every town and suburb. Then you could look at building new social housing. That is a massive missed opportunity by this government. There was an opportunity to say, 'Let's make stuff here. Let's build something big. Let's build trains.' The whole country needs them. We import them now and we have to fix them once they are here. No-one knows that better than the Blue Mountains—the tragedy of being told that we're getting new trains but they are not being built in Australia and they don't fit our tunnels, they don't fit our platforms and they don't fit our tracks.

There was also a missed opportunity to give women more of what they have had a taste of during COVID, and that is free child care. That's a game changer for women's participation in the workforce. It allows them to participate, it allows them to take promotions more easily and it removes an extraordinary layer of stress that exists. When you talk to families about their struggles, cost of living is one but the juggling is another. That was another missed opportunity. There was also a missed opportunity to secure our energy into the future by rewiring the energy grid.

The other missed opportunity was for roads in the Hawkesbury. We're not seeing anything to improve the roads of the Hawkesbury. We are not seeing fast-tracking of the key local project, which is the North Richmond Bridge duplication. This is a vitally needed project. I secured funding for the very early stages of this in 2010 and that funding flowed to the New South Wales government the very next year. At the last election, the Morrison government and Labor both committed to building a third crossing. But, as the work since then has shown, not only is the Morrison government's $200 million not going to build a decent bridge; it's only going to build a budget bridge and it is a duplication with very little flood resistance. It is also not going to happen fast. All we have is a promise of a bridge, which the Department of Infrastructure says is expected to start in 2024 and is expected to finish in late 2026.

I had someone e-mail me just this morning about the progress on the construction of this bridge. Well, there is so little to report. It is not starting for four more years. It won't finish until students who are in kindergarten now are about to head on to high school. And, if they're lucky, students who are in year 7 now might be able to drive across it when they finish their HSC. That's the time frame that we are being promised. Like so many other things, the promise falls way short of the delivery. It's a real kick in the teeth for people who have sat in traffic for years waiting to be heard by the Liberals. It is not like this is a new government that is just finding its feet; this is a federal Liberal government that is seven years old. The state Liberals have been in power for nearly a decade and yet they have made no effort to progress this project—and this budget does nothing to speed it up. That is what the Liberals think of people west of the river. They assume they can take you for granted because you won't change your vote—and they have done it again in this budget. As I've shown for 10 years, I stand by my community. I stand with the community and I'm here for you.

There is another missed opportunity in this budget. There are more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas. Their families are in my electorate, and they have spoken to me about their stories. These people are teachers or nurses. Some are studying at university and they're on gap years or they might have been visiting family, often because a family member is unwell, and some are overseas because they have had a death in the family. They are desperate to come home. The way it was presented early on, that it's their own fault that they're not there, has been crushing to them—being treated like that by this government.

I had an email from Jacqueline, who is a psychologist, works in my area and is an accredited mental health social worker. She said that this year she has had conversations with clients who are stranded overseas, and she talks about one in particular. She has seen this person more isolated than anyone could have imagined, working in the most difficult circumstances, accruing nearly $10,000 of flight credits with seven different companies which she will likely never use, and she now also needs to face the uncertainty about her flight home. Her flight home was changed and then it was cancelled. Now she is in a position to have a flight available for the princely sum of $7,000 but with no certainty that that flight is going to go ahead. It could just end up as another credit with yet another airline. Jacqueline says that she is concerned not only about her financial resources, which are being whittled away, but also the dilemma of the unknown. What Jacqueline says is that clarity and certainty are two things that would be immensely helpful to her, so Jacqueline asked me what clarity and certainty I could provide. The government's done nothing to address this issue in the budget—it hasn't budgeted for additional flights and it hasn't contributed anything that would change the circumstances for people who are stranded overseas. I really think that it's so beyond time for all the words of the government to be turned into action.

There have been small numbers of people come home but nowhere near the 30,000 who are stranded overseas. And those who have come home—I've had conversations with people in quarantine—feel the relief when they know that they're on Australian soil. One of my constituents was able to get a flight to Adelaide, and just being there lifted all her worries even though she is still 14 days away from being home with her family. That's what we need to see. And one of the things that was a missed opportunity in this budget was to provide additional support to the states so that they could expand the quarantine available in order to help people who are coming home.

When I look at what the government has announced, what it promises versus what it delivers, I see a huge gap. There's a massive gap between what we say we're going to do and what we actually do. I don't know if it's a lack of competence. I don't know if they just like to overcook it. Whatever it is, I think it shows an inability to deliver on your promises. It is just as simple as that.

I've talked about JobMaker, the hiring wage subsidy, where only 10 per cent of the promised jobs that we heard about in the budget are actually expected to be delivered, and there are 928,000 people aged over 35 who have been deliberately excluded from that program. These sorts of decisions by the Liberals and Nationals actually mean that this Morrison recession will be deeper than necessary, it will go on longer and the unemployment queues will stay where they are. There's no point shaking your head at me. You're old enough to know how long it takes to get out of recession.

A government member interjecting

Ms TEMPLEMAN: I'm old enough to know how long it takes to get out of recession. I started a business in the recession in the 1990s. I saw family members unemployed. It is hard yards going from recession and transitioning to recovery. And it's not the data that does it; it's the job queues that are the real challenge.

We've seen promises from this government about recycling, the so-called $100 million Recycling Investment Fund, that has not supported a single initiative—not a single dollar has been spent. There's another overpromise, under delivery. The government's announcements on waste and recycling aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and, gee, I hope they were printed on recycled paper.

The national integrity commission: we've heard promises about that but had nothing delivered on it, yet there is all the reason in the world for it to be here now. There is no excuse to be campaigning in Queensland when you can be tackling corruption and integrity issues within your own government.

The COVID-safe app: there were massive promises that this would be the key, and we supported it. We said, 'If you think it's going to work, we're all for making tracing easier.' It's traced 17 unique contacts, which has costed out at $4 million per contact. That's despite seven million people doing what they were asked to do. The app is a total waste of money and another example of overpromising and under-delivering.

On infrastructure, we've had promises of infrastructure spend. They talk about it a lot, but the actual expenditure is much less than promised. The Morrison government on average spend $1.2 billion less on infrastructure than they promise. Last year, it was $1.7 billion less. You can't blame COVID for that. With the Morrison government, there's always the photo opportunity and there's always the big announcement and the headline, but they're never there for the follow-up or the follow-through.

Then there's the manufacturing fund. The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology revealed at the weekend that only $40 million of the $1.5 billion will be spent this financial year. That's too little, too late. It was meant to help us get through the recession. It's half of what was promised in the budget. Within only a couple of weeks of the budget they already knew that they were going to underspend what they promised in the budget. That's just like what they did with the NDIS. They said, 'We're going to spend all of this money,' and they spent significantly less than they promised, and that caused heartache for families struggling just to get a plan to suit their needs.

The HomeBuilder scheme is already too small and is rolling out too slowly. Four months ago we were told it would benefit 27,000 families. I was disappointed that there was no special consideration for bushfire victims. The $25,000 under the HomeBuilder program might have been able to pay for a couple more windows or shutters—all the extra bells and whistles you need in an area hit by fire to rebuild to a higher standard than your original home met because of the newer standards that exist. As it turns out, out of everybody in the whole country who wanted to access this program, just 780 people—that's less than three per cent—have been paid a single cent, and there are only a couple of months to go until applications close. That's another, 'We're going to promise you the world, but we're just going to deliver you a tiny little bit.' It's very disappointing, but it is typical of what we're seeing.

The Emergency Response Fund is another one. We agreed to pass legislation for a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund, taking money away from another important area, because we thought, 'Yes, this stuff absolutely has priority,' but, 18 months on, not a single cent has been spent. That's two bushfire seasons, and no money has been spent. Here we are, and they've done nothing to help protect communities, not just from fires, but from cyclones or floods. In those 18 months, the Morrison government have even failed to call for applications for funding. Yet again, it's just a big promise. They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.

The last one I want to mention is arts funding. We learnt this week that the government has admitted that less than $50 million of the $250 million rescue package it promised has been allocated so far. Guy Sebastian is disappointed about that, but not as much as I am. It's an absolute disgrace.