26 May 2021

I rise to make my contribution to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and related bills. If the past year has shown us anything, it's that Australians need a secure job, functional and efficient government services and investment in future technologies. Even with the advantage of hindsight, this government still got it wrong. Another missed opportunity will leave millions of Australians behind. After eight years of cutting government services and wages, this government has handed down a budget that has no plan that extends past the next year. With $1 trillion in debt, the government has no plan to tackle the jobs crisis, build for the future or help struggling families and small businesses.

What those opposite do have is a plan for the next election. It is the same continuing regressive government that will leave Australia on the edge of the global stage and leave Australians, especially our younger generation, worse off. You don't have to look far to see who this government is trying to make better off. Among listed businesses, one-fifth of JobKeeper went to companies whose profits were rising. In numbers, that's $15 billion to $20 billion of taxpayers' money which was intended to go to struggling businesses that instead became corporate welfare—$1,000 of corporate welfare for every Australian adult. Taxpayer money is not Liberal Party money.

This mishandling of funds for government services continues with the government's updated aged-care policy. The policy ignores several recommendations of the royal commission. It is an announcement with no delivery. The aged-care sector has been in dire need of support for years and, in eight years, this government has done nothing, even though it has had 22 different reports. With the royal commission confirming this, indeed, is an archive of shocking stories due to government neglect, the government chose to disregard the recommendations and leave the sector pleading. We know how much the system is failing. Services such as home-care packages just aren't available for people in certain areas. The government can announce home-care packages, but they don't seem to be able to ensure they're delivered. Every week in my electorate office, I get inquiries from those who are approved for My Aged Care packages but who are still waiting for funding. Worse still, if they are successful and the funding is available, there are no services for them to access. If you need the lawn mowed or some help with light housework or shopping, the waitlists in my part of the country are so long that they're not even adding names to them. It shows a system in crisis.

It's time that we accept a higher standard for our older Australians. We need structural change. Aged care needs to be managed, rather than allowing private companies to profit off the sector. It's clear from the royal commission's finding that this is not an area we can simply let the market decide. The stories of neglect, malnutrition and other horrors from our aged-care facilities must be addressed urgently and properly. The government has had eight years and 22 reports to provide the support and changes that the sector desperately needs. Those families and individuals deserve this now. The budget will not remove the My Aged Care waiting list. It does not address staff shortages or train staff that are needed to provide support.

Along with senior Australians being actively short-changed by the government, people with a disability are also feeling the weight of deliberate inaction. Established under a Labor government, the NDIS aimed to allow Australians with a disability to fulfil their potential and fairly choose what they want their lives to be. However, under successive coalition governments this important system has been undermined and mismanaged. This government in particular has spent the past two years dismantling the NDIS to cut costs at the expense of what should be the best disability scheme in the world.

Recent reports have revealed that the government rewrote an independent review of the NDIS recommending compulsory independent assessments for participants. This in turn was used by the government as an excuse to justify cuts in services. The review included so-called evidence from the assessment that involved only 35 people living with a disability. It is a disservice to all those living with a disability and the workers and carers and families in this sector. Even more reports have surfaced that expose the new minister's plans for the NDIS razor gang. Leaked government documents have outlined guidelines for all frontline staff to hold back from people utilising the scheme.

I've spoken to many who utilise the NDIS—both providers and participants or their families—who are frustrated by the time it takes for reviews and the potential disturbance and changes to packages that they fear will adversely affect their loved ones. They want to do the best for the people they care for and they are concerned by the uncertainty. I've had people in my office end up in tears. They should not have to come to me because they are so stressed and distressed about what is happening to their loved ones and what the future may bring.

The NDIS, done properly, can change the lives of the people that it supports. The party of great economic managers yet again does not seem to be able to manage those funds correctly. This time it is over 430 vulnerable Australians who are paying the price—all of this following the $4.6 billion cuts to the NDIS in the 2019 budget. The government is willingly abandoning people living with a disability, the carers that support them and the workforce underpinning the sector. Disability groups across the country have expressed their disappointment with the findings, along with several state and territory ministers, and I stand with them and the people that they care for.

The centrepiece of the jobs policy, the JobMaker hiring credit, promised 450,000 jobs to reinvigorate the Australian economy. Unfortunately, it only delivered 1,000 jobs. Over 90,000 jobs have been lost in Australia since the coalition has been in government, and 140,000 fewer people are doing apprenticeships and traineeships than when the coalition took power. These numbers are expected to grow, especially in south-western Sydney, where they are determined to cut staff and services, leaving teachers overworked and underpaid and students undertrained. The coalition even dared manufacturers to leave the country, so they did. Australia is suffering and will continue to suffer those consequences—consequences such as being last in the OECD when it comes to manufacturing self-sufficiency.

More urgently, vaccinating the population and ensuring safe quarantine are the two necessities in opening our economy and truly entering a post-COVID world, and this government fails to deliver on both of them. The Morrison government promised four million people would be vaccinated by the end of March. We're now nearing the end of May and we still haven't reached that target. The failure to secure more than two vaccine deals has been part of that. The government failed to get vaccines to GPs, creating confusion about the rollout going forward. The failure continues into quarantine. Quarantine is a federal responsibility. While the states have been doing a good job, it is up to the federal government to show leadership and make sure that it is done properly. Labor has consistently called on the government to implement a national quarantine strategy for the safety of returning citizens. Over time, the government has failed to meet its own targets and deadlines during this pandemic.

The former head of the Department of Health, Jane Halton, briefed the Prime Minister three times last year, suggesting national quarantine facilities would be beneficial for emergency situations, yet the government left quarantine to the states. This budget was a perfect opportunity to create such a system; however, again, it hasn't happened. Even in my own electorate the lack of adequate health services is evident. The government is unfairly delivering a second-rate service in Sydney. Liverpool Hospital does not have equitable access to funds. It also has a greater-than-average challenge in its efforts to meet the health care of the community, significantly diminishing Australians' quality of care and quality of life in the electorate.

The overall problem is a lack of funding—funding for services and funding for infrastructure. Recent reports have highlighted the need for alternative routes to the future aerotropolis rather than the metro link through the St Marys corridor. The St Marys rail line has been the subject of criticism, as the reports show the project's costs will far outweigh its benefit. I've urged the government for several years to build the railway in south-west Sydney so it will link Liverpool, Campbelltown and Kingsford Smith Airport to the new Western Sydney airport. A land corridor is already preserved for the project and would easily and quickly connect the airport to south-west Sydney, where the people who will be working at the airport actually live. But, instead of sustainable solutions, the government and their state counterparts can't see past short-term political benefits, so, they haven't done it. It's a disturbing trend in south-west Sydney.

Austral is a suburb in the south-west growth area. Once a semirural community on Sydney's fringes, urban sprawl has inevitably caught up with Austral. What hasn't caught up are the amenities to support it. First there are public schools. Public schools are over capacity, and that is already an ongoing issue over most of New South Wales. But two schools in my electorate are more than 200 students over capacity and three further schools are more than 300 students over their capacity. A school will in the next year be building demountables on the small bit of playing surface that they have left. In the coming year, Austral will see the construction up to 17,000 new dwellings, putting the population on par with Wagga Wagga and Albury, both of which have their fair share of amenities—and rightly so. Suburbs such as Austral also deserve their fair share.

What those opposite seem not to understand or seem to disregard is that good government changes lives. Policies and decisions of good government can make all the difference. They build a strong economy and a fair society. They open the door to education, employment, good housing, proper healthcare and, more importantly, a better life for everyone. That's why Labor is committed to investing $10 billion into social and affordable housing now and into the future. The Housing Australia Future Fund will build 30,000 social and affordable houses, including 4,000 for women and children escaping domestic violence, in the first five years.

Labor is committed to investing in apprenticeships and encouraging apprentices to train for the new energy jobs of the future. Where there are incentives, there's Australian ingenuity and jobs. Australians need a government that invests in them and one that believes in its services and that it should be leading. Labor is committed to protecting Australian workers from exploitation by consulting with states and territories, unions and employers to develop laws that criminalise wage theft nationwide and end worker exploitation. We are also committed to investing in our young Australians to drive a new generation of innovators, creating sustainable and good-quality jobs for the future.

Building social and affordable housing, investing in skills and training, protecting Australian workers from exploitation, strengthening laws to prevent sexual harassment at work and investing in young Australians will strengthen our recovery and create a better Australia. These are the policies that back every Australian. Even though the recession could have been worse, it matters that the recovery could be much better. Australians deserve a good government that works for them to deliver secure jobs, has functional and efficient government services and invests in future technologies. They need a government on their side.