The Government's failure to take responsibility for the significant challenges confronting the Australian people.

03 September 2020



Coalition Government

The Government's failure to take responsibility for the significant challenges confronting the Australian people.

Mr DAVID SMITH (Bean) (16:08): The government's failure to take responsibility is hurting the Australian people: the worst recession in our lifetime, with an economy that was already in the pits late last year; one million Australians that don't have a job, 400,000 Australians likely to join them by Christmas, thousands more with hours cut and thousands of businesses teetering on the edge; an aged-care sector in desperate need of action and support now, not in three months time, not in six months time; a Public Service cut by 18,000 jobs, with expertise hollowed out; a superannuation system being eroded by forcing Australians to raid their retirement incomes; a university sector facing billions of dollars in lost revenue yet the government choosing this time to make it harder for younger people to go to university; a research sector facing thousands of job losses, with its funding sources drying up; an environment facing the challenges of climate change, poor regulation and poor protection; a school system slipping down the global ratings, while we lose thousands of apprentices out of our VET system; a nation deeply in need of reconciliation with our First Peoples. This is a time when the government should be prepared to stand up to the challenges we face rather than trying to shirk them.

So just how are we going to navigate these challenges? When are we going to see something meaningful from this Liberal-National government? What we are seeing is plenty of deflection—willing to compare us to other countries rather than owning our own responsibilities. We're seeing lots of reheating and recycling of initiatives of the government that were in place before the pandemic arrived to see if they can fool people with smoke and mirrors. We're seeing a fair bit of self-praise for a wage subsidy that this government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to; that was an idea from the Labor movement, not those opposite. Of course, when it suits, we are seeing plenty of blame-shifting to states and territories and to Labor in government and opposition—no responsibility, just rhetoric; just the latest talking points; millions unemployed, and still crickets.

Instead of driving productivity and building our knowledge capital through increased investment in higher education, backing our local scientists and building a world's best R&D sector, we see a job-ready package that will actually cut funding to our universities and make it harder to get a degree and a job. Instead of action in our aged-care sector, looking after our loved ones and supporting the staff who work so hard, we see over $1 billion cut from the system, an absence of proper regulation and oversight, a minister clearly out of his depth and a government buck-passing to states and territories. Instead of building the capacity of our Public Service through removing ideological staffing caps and limiting the contracting of labour hire, we see thousands of jobs lost, the outsourcing of day-to-day Public Service tasks, an explosion in consultancies and attacks on the integrity of public servants.

Critically, instead of a jobs plan to meet the challenges of the deepest recession of our lifetime, when Australians need support, we see them cutting back JobKeeper, cutting back JobSeeker and cutting back super, about to welsh on an election promise, and attempting to cut back pay and conditions for those who can least afford it.

This is a government that's big on sizzle but short on sausage. I tell you, this is a government you do not want at your barbecue. They won't bring the meat or salad. They won't hold the tongs. They won't do the dishes. If they burn the sausages, it will be someone else's fault. If they cook the steaks badly, they will still be self-congratulatory; it'll be 'well done, Angus'! They'll probably have a beer. Unfortunately, it'll probably be your beer.

Whatever the questions raised by the current circumstances, Richard Colbeck cannot be the answer to any of them. Whenever anyone says they're 'doing a Colbeck', we know that means they're walking out on their responsibilities. Earlier today in the Federation Chamber, when I was talking about meeting with aged-care workers and about the 3.7 million Australians struggling with pain management during the necessary restrictions due to the pandemic, what did members of the government do? They walked out. They did a Colbeck. They walked out on our aged-care workforce. They walked out on those Australians struggling with serious and persistent pain. It's time for this government to stop doing a Colbeck and take responsibility for their work.