Federal Parliament - Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021

March 22, 2021

Dr ALYOnce again I get to stand up and talk about my home state of WA. Often when I speak of WA I like to remind people that 'WA' does not stand for 'wait awhile' but in fact stands for 'way ahead'. After the resounding win by the McGowan government in the WA state election I'm beginning to think that those on the other side think 'WA' stands for, 'Where are ya?' Get it?

I'm not one to overegg the results of the state election, and I said so on the night of the state election as well. But I do believe it's a resounding success that, as I mentioned, the Mark McGowan government has basically decimated the WA Liberals, which now holds just two seats. It's an unprecedented success and, I might add also, a very well-earned success by the McGowan government. I do think that the results of the WA state election should, at the very least, be a wake-up call that voters in WA can't and will not be taken for granted by the federal Liberal-National government.

It has been 22 months since the Prime Minister stepped foot in Western Australia, and that goes well beyond the duration of WA's closed border regime. There is absolutely no excuse for it. There is no excuse for it because the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, managed to visit Western Australia during the state election campaign, but the Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen. While I was out there speaking to people during the election campaign and doing my regular weekly meetings in parks around Cowan, it was noticed. It was noticed by a lot of people in Western Australia, who felt that the Prime Minister had left Western Australia behind and completely forgotten about Western Australians. Premier Mark McGowan even publicly invited the Prime Minister to visit, and yet the Prime Minister did not take up that invitation. He did not visit Western Australia during the state election and, as I mentioned, hasn't even bothered to set foot in Western Australia for 22 months. Twenty-two months—it's crazy, right?

As many in my home state of Western Australia are well aware, we are currently looking at and waiting for the government to make a long overdue decision on the full-cycle docking submarine maintenance program. This is a very big talking point in Western Australia, as you would know, Deputy Speaker Goodenough, coming from Western Australia yourself. The decision on the submarine maintenance program was scheduled to be announced early last year, but we are yet to hear from the government or the Prime Minister about what that decision will be. It's a year later, and Western Australians are still waiting. We don't even have a basic timeline so that we know when we could even expect a decision. Now we're being told that there are suggestions coming from the government that the decision will be pushed back until the next federal election. So, Western Australians, you can wait a while longer. Premier McGowan put it this way. He said, 'It is incomprehensible'—that was the word he used—'that the Commonwealth government continues to delay this decision.' Western Australians are waiting. They're waiting for their jobs to start. They're waiting for a program to start that's going to bring investment to Western Australia. Western Australia is the best placed state to undertake the full docking submarine maintenance program given that the submarine fleet is already based in Western Australia. We have the workforce and the industry expertise to do that work. It's a no-brainer. It is absolutely a no-brainer that Western Australia should be doing this work, that the contract should be awarded to Western Australians creating Western Australian jobs. The delays are particularly disappointing given that the minister responsible, Senator Reynolds, is from Western Australia. In fact, many of the senior people in this government are from Western Australia but seem to be letting WA down time and time again with their indecision and their inability or unwillingness to stand up for their own home state.

We saw that most recently with the backing by this government of Clive Palmer's contest over the opening of the WA border. One of the reasons that Labor was re-elected at the state level, and with such an unprecedented level of success in the recent state election, is that people in WA knew and understood exactly what this government was doing when they backed in Clive Palmer's High Court challenge of the WA state border. The voters in Western Australia won't quickly forget this. I know that members of the government like to downplay their support for Clive Palmer and the push to open the borders. They want us to forget that embarrassing moment in time but Western Australians won't forget. They won't forget that this Prime Minister defended—defended—the Commonwealth's decision to join Mr Palmer's action. They actively joined the action by Clive Palmer to bring down the WA border. At the time the Prime Minister said:

"…it is highly likely that the constitutional position that is being reviewed in this case will not fall in the Western Australian Government's favour."

Well, luckily Mark McGowan didn't listen to the Prime Minister and continued the fight against Clive Palmer, who was backed by the Prime Minister and backed by the Attorney-General.

A few weeks ago the High Court published its reasons for its decision to allow Western Australia's hard border to remain. It found that Western Australia's border was justified to prevent a potentially catastrophic event. Every single Western Australian is grateful. Those who visit our great state are in awe of the fact that we have come through this pandemic relatively unscathed due to the actions, the strength and the determination of our Premier and of our state Labor team.

What did the Prime Minister do when Labor resoundingly won the WA state election, decimating the WA Liberal Party to just two sitting members? I am not here to gloat about that. I do feel for those people who have lost their seats, and I have said so publicly. However, the hubris of this Prime Minister claiming responsibility for it, claiming that the WA state Labor government's success was because of him, I find quite astounding really. It's quite laughable, isn't it, that the Prime Minister should claim that the win by Mark McGowan and the WA state Labor team was all because of him? I've got to tell you, Deputy Speaker, many Western Australians actually agreed with him. The ones that I have spoken to have agreed, arguing that it was in fact the very fact that the Prime Minister stayed away from WA that helped the Labor victory. It's quite an extraordinary thing for the Prime Minister to claim that a victory by a WA state Labor government is all because of his actions.

In the short time I have left, I do want to talk about the looming end to JobKeeper. In just a few days, JobKeeper will cease. I've been contacted by several small businesses. It's the small and medium-sized enterprises that are particularly worried and concerned about the looming cliff they face when JobKeeper ends. These are businesses that have really been left behind. JobKeeper allowed them to continue to just keep treading water or to just keep their heads above water over this period. Because of the end of JobKeeper, they are now facing the very real impact and the real prospect of having to close their doors entirely and let go of employees that they've had for years—some for a couple of decades. Along with the end of JobKeeper, we're going to see a huge rise in unemployment as these jobs go, particularly, as I mentioned, in small and medium-sized enterprises. For example, I've got tourism operators and travel agents in my electorate who were already left behind, quite frankly, by this government and who are now feeling the sting of this government's actions even more acutely. They are not looking forward to next month. People on JobSeeker are also not looking forward to next month. In WA, we've got rising rents. Prior to COVID, in the outer suburbs particularly, we already had higher rents, lower house prices and a really high level of mortgage stress, as well as unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, in suburbs like Wanneroo and Girraween.

Western Australia has come out of this largely unscathed, and we've done extremely well economically. But there are industries and small businesses in Western Australia that have relied on JobKeeper, and there are individuals who have needed to, and will continue to need to, rely on JobSeeker. After JobKeeper ends and when JobSeeker goes back to what it was prior to the pandemic with the paltry addition of $3.50 a day, these people are going to be left on the scrap heap, particularly women over the age of 50 who have lost their jobs. Some of them have worked for two to three decades at the same firm or the same small business. Having lost their jobs, they are facing a very bleak future. They are unable to find work. There are no incentives for other companies to hire them. They know that they have talent, skills and experience, but they are desperately wondering what's going to happen to them when JobSeeker and JobKeeper end—when JobKeeper is ripped away from all of these businesses and they have to close their doors, when people have to start repaying their mortgages, and when the moratorium on rent is removed. The real pain of this pandemic, apart from the physical and health pain, is really going to be felt economically over the next few months, as this artificial bubble that we have bursts. I don't really see a vision from this government of how they're going to help all of those Australians who are going to be left in a dire situation, come the end of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement. I really don't see anything that's going to give any hope for the future to those women over 50 who are facing unemployment and those small family businesses owners who have poured their heart and soul into their businesses and will have to close their doors. Caterers, tourism operators, small business operators, and small to medium-sized restaurants and cafes: all of them are going to have to close their doors after JobKeeper has been ripped out. What an insult to them, when they read that some of the big businesses have had millions and millions of dollars worth of JobKeeper and paid that out in bonuses. The response from this government has been, 'Well, good on them!'

I love my state of Western Australia, as I know you do, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough. We aren't 'wait-a-while', we are way ahead and we will continue to be with the strong local leadership of the Mark McGowan government. But Western Australians don't deserve to be left behind by this government, and they'll remember that. They'll remember what this government and this Prime Minister didn't do for them come the next election.