12 May 2021
The Morrison government's headline-seeking optimism about Australia's social, economic and budgetary forecast stands in stark contrast to what it feels like on the ground as we recover from the pandemic on the north side of Brisbane. The Morrison government gave itself an awful lot of kudos last night in the budget speech, taking credit for the hard work and sacrifice of the Australian people in getting our country through the pandemic. Australian aged-care workers and childcare workers stood on the front line, risking their own personal safety, and, on extremely low pay, helped us get through this crisis. Australians need structural reform in our economy to repair it post-COVID. They need structural reform to make the economy work better for them. Australians need a government with an actual vision for how we can build back better together.
The pandemic isn't over, and the fallout from the pandemic is causing too many Northsiders to suffer. These issues were simply not addressed in the budget last night. The Zillmere Community Centre, in my electorate of Lilley, is continuing to see the fallout of the axing of JobKeeper and the cutting of the JobSeeker rate, with more Northsiders ringing for emergency housing assistance. They're anticipating many more will follow. Many of the people that the Zillmere Community Centre assists lost their jobs during COVID, and the temporary increase in JobSeeker helped them just to pay the rent to get through those months. Now that the increased JobSeeker rate is gone, northsiders are telling Sharon and the team that they can't afford their rent or their mortgages. They're sleeping in their cars or on the couches of their friends, and their children are going without meals.
Northside Connect, in Nundah, now have at least 60 Northsiders a week asking for food, and they've had to open their doors for an extra day per week to hand out fresh fruit and veggies and help north-side kids get enough to eat. The economy is not working for these Northsiders, who can't afford to take their kids to the dentist. The economy isn't working for the Northsiders who rely on these community centres for dinner. The economy is not working for the Northsiders who are sleeping on friends' couches while they look for work that isn't there. Last night's budget didn't do anything for these Northsiders.
Last week, I hosted the Lilley Seniors Forum at the Geebung RSL to find out what seniors felt they needed from the federal budget. The feedback I received was unanimous. Seniors feel ignored and unseen in Morrison's Australia. Their pleas on the deeming rates go ignored. Our aged-care system is fundamentally broken. There aren't enough My Aged Care packages, and too many older Australians are still stuck on that waitlist. The Treasurer last night announced $3.5 billion for aged care, and as a flashy headline it sounds very welcome, but the devil's always in the detail. This funding announcement is just one-third of what the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety found had been cut by this coalition government over the last five years, and it's less than half the funding boost that the royal commission recommended. The government also announced 80,000 new home-care packages, which is good, but there are almost 100,000 senior Australians on the home-care waitlist. So what is happening to the other 20,000 people waiting for those packages? Are they going to continue to be left waiting? It's not good enough. On behalf of the Lilley locals who came to that seniors forum and who asked for our government to do better, and older Northsiders' families who are losing sleep at night worrying about what is going to happen to their parents when the time comes, I will keep fighting.
Australian workers can expect to receive a 2.25 per cent real pay cut this financial year and a 0.25 per cent pay cut next financial year because the Morrison government's submission to the Fair Work Commission's annual wage review opposed any significant increase in the minimum wage. This budget was supposed to be the Morrison government's mea culpa. It was supposed to take stock of their failings over the last eight years, beg for forgiveness and actually put in some real change that would make our economy work again. But they're not on the side of low-paid workers; they're not on the side of workers who are trying to plan for their future while trapped in insecure and casual work; they're not on the side of people who are looking for work, many of whom have now been pushed back below the poverty line because of the drop in the JobSeeker rate; and they're not on the side of older Australians who are still waiting for access to aged-care services in their own homes or who are at risk of being neglected in our private aged-system. We have aged-care workers in the building this morning pleading for real change to try and keep the people who want to be in the system there, and there was nothing on offer for those people last night. This government is not on the side of Australian women, including our frontline workers in the care economy who kept us all alive, safe and functioning during the pandemic. I guess, because they're not in high-vis, they're not on Team Australia.