Supporting Australian Families
Matter of Public Importance
House of Representatives, Wednesday 2 August 2023
As a father of three boys, I found yesterday's television stories utterly gut-wrenching. To see these accounts of a number of allegations is just extraordinary. I'd encourage anyone who is distressed by the news to seek support. The government thanks the hardworking officers of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and the Queensland and New South Wales police for their dedication to the case. They didn't give up until they identified all of the alleged victims.
It's important to remember that the matter is currently before the courts. We in this parliament have the liberty to speak about any matters we wish, but it has not been unknown for past court cases to be derailed, so I'd urge all those speaking on this matter of public importance debate to be careful. The Leader of the Opposition, as a former police officer, knows better than anyone to be careful in all of our words in what we say to ensure we do not jeopardise the work of the police.
The Albanese government has been working with all Australian jurisdictions on the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse, underpinned by an initial investment of some $300 million over four years. The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation received additional funding in our budget. The Minister for Education has asked the independent Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority to undertake a review of child safety arrangements, recognising these heinous events. The government will receive the authority's interim reports in October.
As we talk about the importance of supporting Australian families, it is also vital that the opposition does in this parliament what the MPI says it will do. My day today started with a visit to Ochre Medical Centre in Gungahlin with the terrific Minister for Health and Aged Care, who's here in the chamber. We were talking about the three important measures that the government has brought forward to take cost-of-living pressure off Australian households: tripling the bulk-billing incentives; delivering cheaper medicines, benefiting some 11 million Australians; and putting in place 60-day prescribing, which will benefit some six million Australians—a measure which, alas, is being opposed by those opposite. I then arrived in parliament and joined colleagues in seeing the Minister for Housing reintroduce the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill. The coalition oppose putting downward pressure on house prices, and every day of delay to the HAFF means 16 homes that aren't built. Then, shortly afterwards, the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Safety Net) Bill passed the parliament. That raises payments by $40 across a whole range of payments, but the coalition tried to amend it to remove that rise. So having had these three measures today, where the government is looking to support Australian families and the opposition is opposing support for Australian families, I find it surprising to have the opposition talking about the importance of supporting Australian families.
Right now, unemployment in Australia is at a 50-year low. Our government has delivered half a million jobs, better jobs growth than any government on record over our first year. We have brought down a budget which reduced inequality by more than any budget in the past decade. Inflation is going to be three-quarters of a point lower as a result of the measures in the budget, according to Treasury modelling. The Reserve Bank governor has said:
I don't think that the budget is adding to inflation, it's actually reducing inflation in the next financial year.
Inflation over the last quarter was 0.8 per cent, less than half of the 2.1 per cent that it hit during the coalition's last quarter in office.
In my remaining time, let me just go through 10 examples in which the coalition have failed to support Australian families.
First, they voted against energy bill relief, calling our Energy Price Relief Plan 'Venezuelan communism'.
Second, they voted against coal and gas price caps, another vital measure which ensures that our manufacturers don't pay wartime gas prices and households don't go to the wall as a result of price spikes in the global energy market. They failed to support that.
Third, they're voting against more housing, including housing for women and children fleeing family violence. They say that they're supporting housing supply, but, when it comes to supporting Australian families by getting more housing built, they're refusing to do it.
Fourth, they're opposing 480,000 fee-free TAFE places. A great way of supporting Australian families is to ensure that, when Australians want to get a trade qualification, they're able to go out there and do it, and yet the deputy Liberal leader said that providing 480,000 fee-free TAFE places was 'a waste of taxpayer dollars'.
Fifth, they're opposing cheaper electric vehicles, an important support for Australian families and an important measure in our green energy transition.
Sixth, they're refusing to report the Rewiring the Nation plan, this important investment in the electricity grid which in turn supports Australia families through more affordable power.
Seventh, they're refusing to support 60-day prescribing, a measure which benefits six million Australians. It allows many Australians with many medicines to pay just half as much in order to get those essential medicines. Instead of supporting patients, the coalition are supporting the lobby group. Instead of supporting Australian families, particularly those with high medicines costs, they are playing cheap, populist politics.
Eighth, they're opposing cheaper child care. Earlier this week the Minister for Education, Jason Clare; and the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Anne Aly, met with parents Blanca and Chris in Nicholls in my electorate, who have a daughter, three-year-old Paloma. Blanca said that, as a result of Labor's policy to make child care cheaper, she was able to make the choice to increase her working days from three to four, doing important work as a lawyer working for the government.
Yet, when my party introduced cheaper child care, the member for Wannon called it ‘communism’. It's a bit of a theme: cheaper energy prices—communism; cheaper child care—communism. The shadow finance minister, Senator Hume said, 'It's certainly not the policy that we would have introduced.'
Ninth, those opposite are failing to support Australian families by refusing to back our measures to get wages moving. Of our industrial relations changes, Senator Cash said they would 'shut down Australia.' Under the former coalition government, wage stagnation cost the average worker $16,000 compared to what would have happened if wage growth had been at the levels of the former Labor government. Under us, we've seen the minimum wage up nearly $3 an hour and the gender pay gap at a historic low.
Tenth, those opposite are opposing a voice to parliament. For Indigenous families, a voice to parliament is a way of being heard on issues around employment, education and health care. If you want to support Indigenous families, you need to support a voice to parliament.
In our time in office we've delivered an aged-care pay rise of 15 per cent for 250,000 workers, delivered10 days family violence leave, boosted Commonwealth rent assistance by the largest amount in 30 years, expanded eligibility for the single parenting payment and delivered the first surplus in 15 years.
Finally, if we're talking about supporting families, let's think about the victims of robodebt. As one witness, Ms Bevan, said:
I'd often go without food so that my kids could have more food. I wouldn't buy lunch or anything, I'd just have breakfast and leftovers of what the boys didn't eat …
A party that claims to support Australian families should admit what it did wrong with robodebt and acknowledge the importance of that never happening ever again.