Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021-2022

Federation Chamber
Thursday 27 May 2021

I'll be touching on a number of issues in my remarks to the House about the federal budget and the government's so-called plan, as we've just heard, and why we have serious concerns about the economic recovery, and in the areas of health, aged care, child care and infrastructure and the impacts that that has had, or the lack of information and details and announcements for the community that I represent in the parliament of Australia through the south-west suburbs of Brisbane and one of the fastest growing corridors in the country in the Ipswich and Greater Springfield region.

But I would like to take this moment, before I get into the health details of the budget, and aged care in particular, to pay tribute at the beginning of my remarks today to the passing of a great Queenslander, Sir Llew Edwards, who passed away, as we heard from the tributes in the parliament yesterday from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I was privileged to know Sir Llew and some of his family for many years. He was a great Queenslander, former health minister, former treasurer and leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party in Queensland. He represented the seat of Ipswich from 1972. In his role as a local member he shaped the modern city of Ipswich and the wonderful legacy of South Bank—he was appointed by the Hawke government as chairman—which was a turning point for our city's history. Although he shaped politics in the seventies and eighties, after parliament he went on to become one of the architects of contemporary Brisbane through various boards and as chancellor of the University of Queensland.

I extend my sympathies and condolences to his beautiful family and in particular, his wife, Lady Edwards, who has had a remarkable career in her own right. I quote from Lady Edwards in the media yesterday:

Llew was the most wonderful man and I loved him dearly. He fought the battle with dementia as best he could but despite the disease, he was always the man I knew and loved. Despite how busy he was and how many commitments he had, I always felt like the most important person in the world to Llew … I will miss him terribly as will his children and grandchildren.

I am a good friend of one of his sons Pastor Mark Edwards, from Cityhope Church in the Ipswich area. When I messaged Mark yesterday, I know how sad he was in losing his dad but also a wonderful grandfather as well. I extend my condolences to his family and pay tribute to him as a great Queenslander.

The budget in the debate today is a shameless political fix. I want to place on record a number of concerns that residents have raised with me regarding the budget's key announcements and what they will mean for my community. While we know this government is very, very good at making headline announcements, the actual delivery and implementation is where this government, after eight long years, continues to fail the people of Australia. The government has overseen record low wages growth, chronically high underemployment and still doesn't have a credible plan to create secure jobs. So we've seen, over the long eight years, a crisis in aged care, an energy crisis, a housing crisis and a skills crisis. We have seen a lot of announcements, but not a lot of follow-through from this government.

One of the first things I want to unpack in my remarks to the parliament today is the underdelivery of infrastructure, particularly for the state of Queensland. The Morrison government's 2021-22 budget has ripped off Queenslanders. We know that announcements were dropped before the budget was even delivered. The stark reality was that $1.6 billion for infrastructure was announced to be delivered for Queensland, but New South Wales were to receive $3 billion and South Australia $2 billion. So the Liberal states of New South Wales and South Australia get $1.4 billion and $2 billion in this budget. But, when the funding was announced after the budget, it was revealed that half of the $1.6 billion for infrastructure will not be delivered within the four years of the forward estimates. So it's not $1.6 billion announced in the budget; it's half of that. There are a whole range of projects in my electorate that are desperately in need of funding. We know that the Ipswich City Council has been lobbying hard this federal government. I was pleased to see the Mayor of Ipswich, Teresa Harding, come to Canberra with her wish list for the people of Ipswich, and she has been ignored.

The first issues I want to talk about are the Ipswich motorway and the rail corridor. My residents have been sitting in traffic for far too long. In light of the government spending $100 billion in the budget and racking up $1 trillion in debt, locals in my electorate are right to ask what they are getting for this. What is the return on investment that they're seeing from this government? The government has completely ignored projects that local residents have been crying out for. There are zero dollars for the Ipswich to Springfield rail corridor. The state government put money on the table, and the Ipswich City Council put money on the table for the initial planning study. We were waiting for the federal government to look at a commitment of around $1½ million. Zero! There are zero dollars on the table for this transformation project. This project would service high-growth residential areas and the Ipswich Showgrounds—the site of future exhibitions, entertainment events and evacuation centres—but, most importantly, it would provide long-term jobs in construction and would be a big boost to our local economy. This rail corridor was extended by the previous Labor state government from the Richlands train station to Springfield and then Springfield Central. That has completely opened up the Greater Springfield area. We've seen record amounts of investment happening as a result of the building of that rail infrastructure and the Centenary Motorway duplication. But the next stage must happen. The growth through the Ripley corridor through the Greater Springfield area dictates this. We all know this. It is a significant project. But this government fails to invest in the greater Ipswich region, and we've seen that time and time again.

Equally, the Ipswich motorway was completely ignored by the Howard government for years and years and years. Not a dollar was spent on the Ipswich motorway. The election of the Rudd and Gillard governments delivered that funding for the upgrade of the Ipswich motorway, thanks to the advocacy of Shayne Neumann, the federal member for Blair and Anthony Albanese, who was then infrastructure minister. The residents have now been able to get home more quickly. I was privileged to help open the next stage of the Ipswich motorway with the Premier of Queensland in a joint Commonwealth-state announcement. No-one from the federal government bothered to turn up, of course, but I was pleased to recognise the federal government and the minister in my remarks to the media—I give credit when we see joint partnerships.

But that took a long time to come; we are still waiting for the final section to be built. For residents, the Oxley interchange in particular is a nightmare in the mornings. I know this because I live up the road and residents and neighbours in my street have told me how long it takes them to get to Oxley State School. Whether they're trying to get to work or whether they're just trying to get into the city, they know that this is one of the worst bottlenecks in Brisbane. So I again call on the infrastructure minister and the federal government to make sure their priority and their investment.

Queensland has been short changed by this government. We haven't got the investment that our state needs. The Prime Minister seems more intent on coming to Queensland and picking fights with the Premier of Queensland over and over again.

Mr Entsch interjecting—

Mr DICK: I will take the interjection from the member for Leichhardt, who says that he thinks that's an appropriate way to engage with governments. I don't think so. I think we work best when we work together, and what we're seeing over and over again is that this government is more interested in the politics and more interested in the political fights and is not actually coming up with the solutions and the outcomes that residents want. I know from speaking to my local chambers of commerce that they are also on board and want to see that final piece of the Ipswich Motorway puzzle upgraded. They know that they've been lobbying long and hard for what's needed.

In my remaining remarks I want to touch on aged care. This is an issue of critical importance to local residents. In the budget, we were all waiting for the government to offer a comprehensive answer to some of the devastating findings of the royal commission. The Commonwealth is responsible for our aged-care system, but we know that the Prime Minister has refused to step up to the job. Once again, he is blaming the states. We saw a tragedy unfold during the COVID crisis. The sad fact was that 685 older Australians passed away in nursing homes during the coronavirus episode. Local residents are really worried about the future of aged care in the community where they live.

I was really pleased to have Clare O'Neil, the shadow minister for senior Australians and aged-care services, visit Redbank Palms, a great local residential community in Redbank in my electorate, along with our state member, Lance McCallum. We were able to hear firsthand the concerns and fears of local residents there. I may add that, while I was there, I asked them who had been vaccinated. This is an over-60s community. I said, 'Who's been vaccinated?' There would've been about 60 or maybe 65 people there; two people put up their hands. The government made a commitment that we were going to see four million Australians vaccinated and that people in residential and aged-care facilities would all be done by Easter. The fact is that this government had two jobs to do this year: to roll out the vaccine and to provide quarantine facilities.

In our home state of Queensland, where the Queensland government has put forward sensible quarantine solutions and has put sensible quarantine suggestions on the table, we've seen once again that the government is more interested in picking a fight with the Queensland government. I understand that Toowoomba is off the table and that he's not interested in that proposal. What is the plan for Queensland? He described Toowoomba as a desert. I don't think the people of the Darling Downs and Groom would particularly think that they lived in a desert. I know that, when the Carnival of Flowers comes around at the end of the year, that's not when they have a desert! But what is the solution for dealing with quarantine in Queensland? What is this government's solution? We've asked these questions in the parliament, and time and time again the federal government has simply said, 'We're not interested in dealing with quarantine, despite it being a constitutional responsibility.'

This goes back to the issue of responsible management for our older Australians. We've read the report Neglect. We understand the chronic underfunding of aged-care services. Locals in the Oxley electorate want to know that their parents and grandparents are safe and properly cared for.

The first thing we will do, which I'm really proud of is, to see the recognition for aged-care workers, the people who have gone beyond the call of duty during this pandemic and the people to whom we entrust all of our loved ones. I'm really proud to say that an Albanese Labor government would lift aged-care wages by 25 per cent and commit to minimum staff ratios. Everyone should age with dignity and safety, and that's exactly the feedback that I've heard from my local residents when on the ground with the shadow aged-care minister.

Whether it be how we treat our most vulnerable towards the end of their lives with the comfort and protection that they deserve, or whether it be at the other end of the spectrum, dealing with child care—an issue the government doesn't particularly talk about—we know that only a Labor government will deliver. Labor will deliver a policy for cheaper child care which will help out 97 per cent of families by scrapping the $10,500 subsidy cap, lifting the maximum subsidy rate to 90 per cent and increasing subsidy rates for every family earning less than $530,000. This is about making it easier for mums, children and working families to get ahead, and that is the clear feedback that my community has delivered as a result of this budget. They want a government on their side. They want a government that's going to focus on their issues, not simply on managing political fixes.