The Westender has asked local elected representatives whose electorates include 4101 to provide us with regular updates. Here is the first from Member for Griffith, Terri Butler. Ms Butler covers a range of issues that are playing out nationally: quarantine and the vaccination rollout, JobKeeper, the recent IPCC report on climate change, women’s safety and economic security, refugees from Afghanistan, and the work of Shadow Cabinet.
We have had four federal parliamentary sitting weeks since August 1, and it has never been more crucial to apply scrutiny to the Morrison-Joyce Government.
The pandemic response continues to dominate federal politics, and in recent weeks we have also dealt with a number of other serious issues.
They have included the Morrison government’s refusal to make profitable firms with rising revenue pay back JobKeeper windfalls, the IPCC climate change report, women’s safety and economic security, Labor’s calls for a National Anti-Corruption Commission, and the events in Afghanistan.
In addition to holding the Morrison-Joyce government to account, Labor has continued to develop and promote our own positive vision for the country.
I am proud to be a shadow cabinet minister. It is a privilege to serve under Anthony Albanese in our nation’s alternative government. And my role in the Shadow Cabinet means that if Labor wins the next election and forms government, our community will have a strong voice in our national government decision-making.
For all of August and September, I have been either in Canberra for parliament, or quarantining. As I write this, I have a bit more than a week of quarantine left to go. So, I’m really grateful to my dedicated staff and volunteers for being out and about on my behalf in the community during that time. I’ve been continuing my work as local member, and as the shadow environment and water minister, remotely throughout that time.
Our recent parliament sittings strongly focussed on holding the Morrison government to account – especially on the pandemic response.
Scott Morrison had two jobs this year: an efficient vaccine rollout, and effective national quarantine. He has botched both, and Australians are paying the price. The Morrison-Joyce government’s failures are the root cause of the lockdowns that have affected half the country.
Hotels are built for tourists, not quarantine. Eighteen months into the pandemic it is ridiculous that the Morrison government hasn’t established a fit-for-purpose national quarantine system – to the extent the Queensland government has had to go it alone on building safe quarantine facilities at Wellcamp airport, despite quarantine being a federal responsibility enshrined in the constitution.
And we are still seeing the consequences of the government’s failure to secure more deals for vaccines. If not for hotel quarantine leaks and the very slow vaccine rollout, our country would not have seen so many lockdowns and restrictions.
On top of these significant failings, the Morrison-Joyce government needs to cut out the attacks on state health protections.
If it wasn’t bad enough that they joined Clive Palmer’s court proceedings in support of his attempts to penetrate state borders, they ended up paying out $1 million of public money in costs – some of which went directly to Clive Palmer.
They added insult to injury by calling Queenslanders and others cave dwellers, comparing us to the Croods.
And they are allowing the likes of Craig Kelly and Morrison-Joyce government MP George Christensen to spread disinformation about everything from masks to lockdowns to vaccines on social media. When Labor moved a motion about George Christensen’s disinformation the Prime Minister could not even bring himself to refer to Mr Christensen by name.
While the pandemic is obviously the key focus we are continuing our scrutiny over the government’s health portfolio decision-making, such as their recent sneaky Medicare out-of-pocket cost increases (and you can sign my petition here.)
JobKeeper double standard
In the recent sittings, we have also seen some alarming news about firms with rising revenue receiving JobKeeper.
Labor called for a wage subsidy, and the government initially rejected it. We were pleased when they backflipped and agreed to introduce one.
The wage subsidy, called JobKeeper, has been crucial. But that doesn’t mean the Morrison government should let profitable firms with rising revenue get, and keep, windfalls. They have been applying an obvious double standard here – after all, the Morrison government is the same government that had the Robodebt scandal, and the same government that chases families for childcare subsidy overpayments.
In parliament I asked Scott Morrison about the government’s $13 billion in JobKeeper rorts and the government’s outrageous double standards. I asked:
“Why didn’t the Treasurer put rules in place to require JobKeeper payments to profitable companies with rising revenue to be returned to the taxpayer? The government makes welfare recipients and parents who receive the childcare subsidy return excess payments – why weren’t the same rules put in place for profitable companies with rising revenue?”
Click here to see my question.
If you want to see the Prime Minister’s completely inadequate response, click HERE.
Women’s safety and economic security
Earlier this year it was revealed that former Liberal staffer Ms Brittany Higgins had allegedly been sexually assaulted on the premises at Parliament House, just metres from the Prime Minister’s office.
The revelation of Ms Higgins’ alleged assault catapulted to national attention issues of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and how people are treated after they sound the alarm.
The Morrison-Joyce government’s very poor handling of matters related to women’s safety and economic security has been exposed yet again, towards the end of the sitting, and during their women’s “summit”.
During the sitting the Morrison-Joyce government voted against Labor’s proposal to fully implement the Respect@Work report to help keep Australians safe from sexual harassment at work. And at the Summit the government drew renewed criticism from advocates.
Back in April, Scott Morrison had promised he would adopt the recommendations in the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Respect@Work Report. Instead the Morrison-Joyce government voted against Labor’s proposal to fully implement the report to help keep Australians safe from sexual harassment at work.
In parliament last sitting week, I asked the Prime Minister why.
Click here to see my question.
If you want to see the Prime Minister’s completely inadequate response, click here.
Since then, both Ms Higgins and Australian of the Year and abuse survivor Grace Tame, among others, have criticised the Prime Minister’s “Women’s Safety Summit”, has been held in recent days.
Foreign affairs matters, and particularly the evacuation of Australians and visa-holders from Afghanistan, were also before the parliament during the sittings. Like other MPs I have been contacted by locals who are seeking help and gravely concerned for friends and family who remain in Afghanistan facing perilous conditions. I know it has also been a very difficult time for those who served in Afghanistan, including veterans living in our community.
You can see Penny Wong’s response HERE.
During the sittings we saw the release of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report on climate change. In response, Labor brought on a Matter of Public Importance debate, calling out the Morrison-Joyce government’s continuing failure to take action on climate change. I spoke in that debate, calling for climate action.
See my speech here.
Climate Change and Energy Shadow Minister Chris Bowen recently spoke at the Better Futures Forum about lifting Australia’s climate ambition and the principles for Labor approach:
“The IPCC report last week was simultaneously unsurprising and shocking.
“Climate change presents the most serious ongoing threat to our wellbeing. …two prime ministers later, we are still saddled with the emissions reduction targets of this (Tony Abbott) climate wrecker: 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
“Decarbonisation of the global economy is the greatest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. The longer Australia waits to start, the harder it will be to take advantage of the opportunities.
“Labor has announced four principles that will underpin our policies. They are:
- Net zero emissions by 2050 is necessary – but not sufficient. We need a strong roadmap to get there.
- Labor’s climate ambition will be backed by costed policies to achieve that ambition.
- Good climate policy is good jobs policy – creating jobs and cutting power prices while reducing emissions.
- The regions will be at the centre of Labor’s climate and energy policies.”
You can see Chris Bowen’s full speech HERE.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce claimed it wasn’t up to the government to come up with a plan to reduce emissions, I asked the Prime Minister whether he agreed.
Click here to see my question to the Prime Minister.
National Anti-Corruption Commission
Labor has also been continuing our push for a National Anti-Corruption Commission. I want to thank the shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC MP for being the guest speaker at the virtual town hall I ran in relation to this issue in August. We discussed Labor’s plan for a powerful, transparent and independent National Anti-Corruption Commission, and took questions from locals. The whole virtual town hall meeting was recorded, and you can watch it here:
You can see Labor’s Anti-Corruption Commission policy HERE.
Labor’s vision for the nation – our work in Shadow Cabinet
Anthony Albanese and our shadow cabinet, of which I’m proud to be a member, have announced a number of policy commitments, with the help of our 65,000 Labor members nationally, the broader labour movement, academics, scientists, industry and community members. You can see all policies announced to date here.
We will be announcing further policies in the lead up to the next election.
One of our earliest policy announcements was to make childcare cheaper for 97% of Australian families, with no family worse off. I spoke about the policy during the recent sittings.
You can see my speech here.
Some of our other significant policy announcements include:
- Labor’s plan to make Australia a Renewable Energy Superpower – A nation changing $20-billion plan to get more renewables into the Nation Electricity Grid
- Power to the People: Labor’s plan for community batteries
- Labor’s Electric Car Discount – Our plan to make electric vehicles cheaper
We need a government that is able to show real leadership
For Scott Morrison, every problem is someone else’s fault. Every crisis is someone else’s responsibility.
Australians have been plunged into uncertainty and disruption because of a leaky quarantine system and a slow vaccine rollout.
He says it’s not a race. It is a race. It always was a race.
Scott Morrison had two jobs this year: a speedy, effective rollout of the vaccine and quarantine. He has failed both.
When he’s called out on his failures, Mr Morrison’s response is always the same: “it’s not my job”, “it’s matter for the states”, “I don’t hold a hose”.
Whether it’s bushfires or Robodebt, aged care or car park rorts, he never shows leadership. Just more spin.
Our health is at risk. Our economy is held hostage. Families are being kept apart. Children are stressed and missing school.
Australians deserve better. That’s why I’m fighting to change the federal government.
The list of mistakes the Liberals and Nationals have made in the pandemic continue to pile up.
The costs for Australians grow by the day.
Ten damaging mistakes by Scott Morrison in the pandemic.
1. Scott Morrison said that Australia was at the “front of the queue” for vaccines.
We have one of the slowest rollouts in the developed world.
2. Scott Morrison repeatedly told Australians that the vaccination rollout, “isn’t a race”. It is clearly the most serious race Australia has confronted in recent history.
3. Scott Morrison’s COVID Safe app has been an expensive failure, and cost Australia millions of dollars, failing to track cases more effectively than other methods, and is barely used in key outbreak states.
4. Scott Morrison didn’t secure a Pfizer deal until the end of 2020, putting us at the back of the queue. While countries like the UK and the US were busy signing vaccine supply deals with Pfizer in July 2020, the Morrison Government ignored Pfizer’s request for urgent meetings.
5. Scott Morrison didn’t contact the Chairman Pfizer for 18 months Countries like the US, Japan and the United Kingdom were making Pfizer deals back in July 2020.
6. Scott Morrison promised that 4 million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March 2021. But, by the end of March, there were only 600,000 doses administered – some 15% of Mr Morrison’s target.
7. Scott Morrison promised that all aged care residents and workers would be vaccinated by Easter 2021. Shockingly, only 45,000 aged-care residents were fully vaccinated by April 10.
9. Scott Morrison has missed every target that he has set – and now the Liberals dropped the idea of vaccine targets all together, and instead Australia has “horizons”.
The thing about a horizon is that you never actually meet it.
10. Scott Morrison promised that 40,000 stranded Australia’s would be home by Christmas, but he failed, with tens of thousands of Australians still stranded overseas.
My office is always here to help.
Phone: (07) 3397 1674
You can connect via social media too: https://www.facebook.com/butler4griffith/
Cover image supplied