Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022



Federal Budget

The Hon. S.L. GAME (12:16): I move:

That this council notes the following measures announced in the October 2022-2023 Federal Budget—

1. $23.5 million over four years to expand the Headspace network, yet excludes a centre for the Yorke Peninsula Local Health Network;

2. $203.7 million over two years to support student wellbeing and mental health, which to be effective must be evidence-based, include program evaluations and have its outcomes monitored;

3. $310.4 million over nine years to attract and retain high-quality teachers, which to produce intended outcomes ought to be highly targeted based on both teacher and student performance, as well as students’ wellbeing;

4. $22.1 billion of initiatives towards renewable energies, $20 billion for grid modernisation and $15 billion of capital to help industries transition to net zero, most of which is wasted in pursuit of ambitious and damaging renewable energy targets;

5. Up to $845 million to reduce transport emissions and subsidise electric vehicle purchases, which is a transfer of wealth from low to high socio-economic people;

6. $10 billion of investment in a housing Australia fund supporting 30,000 affordable and social homes, which ought to be prioritised for our most vulnerable Australian citizens;

7. An increase in Australia’s migration program from 160,000 to 195,000, with inadequate investment and planning into housing and health that could accommodate this growth;

8. $7 billion of investment to drive gender equality and $1.7 billion to address gender-based violence, which fails to recognise the one-quarter of domestic violence victims who are male; and

9. $75.1 million to prepare for a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and $1.5 million to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the apology to stolen generations—measures with unknown tangible outcomes for Aboriginal Australians.

Cost-of-living concerns are rightly front and centre of South Australians' minds right now and this October federal budget provides mixed results at best. Spiralling debt and deficits remain unaddressed and, despite tinkering around the edges, $1 trillion of gross debt will be reached in just a few years' time. One Nation has long advocated for stronger measures to allow us to reap the benefits provided by our resources industry, which has delivered windfall gains of $164 billion to the bottom line, thanks to unexpectedly high commodity prices. However, foreign-owned multinationals are still not paying their fair share of tax.

It is very concerning that the fastest-growing payment in the federal budget is that of interest payments. On average, they are set to increase by 14.4 per cent each and every year over the next decade, resulting in almost $19 billion in interest payments alone next year. It is easy to think of a multitude of ways this money could be spent better.

It is simply unacceptable that in a resource and knowledge rich country like ours that we should be subjected to energy price rises of 56 per cent. This is not becoming of an advanced country like Australia, and sheeting blame to Russia is simply federal Labor looking to justify their own incompetence. One Nation has long called for measures to increase the supply of gas and for the removal of the prohibition on nuclear power.

There is an irony in the Australian government's approach of being so stridently anti fossil fuels yet relying on our exports of these precious minerals to prop up our own federal budget. One Nation believes that rather than shipping our coal and gas overseas we ought to apply a national plan that guarantees low-cost, reliable, dispatchable power by building low-emission coal-fired power stations. By processing and using our own fossil fuel deposits for energy production we can reduce transportation costs and preside over high-efficiency, low-emission power generation that provides us with national energy security.

Ongoing subsidies and investments in our electricity grid, thanks to renewable energies, are unsustainable and add distortions into our energy market. Initiatives of $22.1 billion are earmarked for this Labor government's ambitious pre-election commitment to the Powering Australia plan, $20 billion is for grid modernisation as part of its Rewiring the Nation scheme, and $15 billion of capital has gone into a fund to help industries transition to net zero. These are the sorts of government spending measures that form the hidden cost of renewables that are not often spoken about. One Nation believes it is high time that these extravagant subsidies and investments for renewables are cast aside in favour of investigating nuclear power generation, which will set Australia up for a long-term future of cheap, reliable and secure energy.

The insanity of this commonwealth government's relentless exercise in virtue signalling its green credentials is borne out by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy's very own analysis. In order for us to meet our government-imposed emissions reduction targets of 43 per cent by 2030, Australia must install more than 22,000 500-watt solar panels every single day for the next eight years. Furthermore, we must build 40 seven-megawatt wind turbines every month, connected by a minimum of 10,000 kilometres of additional transmission lines.

It is folly to think that this is either achievable or desirable. It is equally foolish to impose on our farmers devastating methane emissions targets, like what is occurring in New Zealand and the Netherlands. Thankfully, it appears that the pledge to cut methane emissions in Australia by 30 per cent by 2030 is voluntary. Assurances have been given to the National Farmers' Federation that our agriculture sector will not be slugged with new taxes or regulation to achieve it.

Compliance with this pledge cannot occur at the expense of our farmers, who across the ditch are being hit with a burp tax that will result in 20 per cent of cattle and sheep farmers and 5 per cent of dairy farmers being forced out of business, according to New Zealand's own modelling. Food security is inextricably linked to national security. One Nation will always stand side by side with our farmers, who are the lifeblood of our great country.

I am similarly concerned by the wasteful subsidisation of electric vehicles, which the federal government has sought to bankroll to the tune of $845 million. This is just another example of governments using taxes paid by hardworking Australian families to subsidise the playthings of our most privileged residents who are in a position to afford expensive electric vehicles. EV battery warranties on average last only eight years, which means some owners could be faced with battery replacement costs that can be as much as half the value of the car or over $40,000.

Additionally, serious concerns have been raised by Australian firefighters about the ferocious nature of EV fires, which require up to 20 times more water to extinguish, and the contaminated water must then be captured and treated. Some of our firefighters have suffered lifelong injuries as a result of attending electric vehicle fires, which can remain a serious risk of reignition for over four weeks post extinguishment.

While I welcome in principle increased support for mental health and wellbeing measures, I have questions regarding some of this funding. A major concern for me and those who I have spoken with on Yorke Peninsula is that they are the only local health network without a Headspace centre. I welcome expanding the Headspace network, but I am concerned that this regional community is missing out from this $23.5 million announcement.

Similarly, I question the usefulness and the expected positive outcomes of the $203.7 million budgeted over two years to support student wellbeing and mental health. Our children and young people are telling us that they are depressed, anxious and lonelier than ever, whether due to factors such as COVID-19 lockdowns, climate change anxiety or a feeling of social isolation due to social media. I am concerned that this is just more money going down the drain without tangible outcomes for our children.

In addition to this, I share concerns with many parents who have spoken with me about a lack of transparency with what is being taught in our schools regarding gender issues and relationship-making. I believe we are not teaching our children to be as resilient as they could be, which forms the building blocks of our kids' mental wellbeing.

To address shortages, $310.4 million over nine years has been allocated to attract and retain high-quality teachers. In principle, I welcome additional funding to obtain the best quality teachers possible. I believe that our teachers should be remunerated according to their performance and based on their students' wellbeing and academic achievement. I support our best teachers being paid accordingly and therefore oppose blanket pay rises for our teachers that do not take into consideration these factors. I want high-quality teachers to teach, stay in the profession and remove from their duties the extraneous roles of being social workers and administration staff.

Much has been made of the federal government's aspirational goal of building one million new homes, and I share concerns about this ambitious target, which has little to no detail. I do, however, welcome measures to increase the supply of affordable and social housing, and I understand $10 billion is set aside for a Housing Australia Future Fund to provide 30,000 new social and affordable housing options. This housing must be prioritised for our vulnerable residents.

I note that at the end of the 2022 financial year as many as 33,646 people were on the social housing waiting list in South Australia and that it would take 10 years for them eventually to be housed. An increase in the migration program from 160,000 to 195,000 will only lengthen the wait for South Australians, and I raise these concerns with our state human services minister.

The principle of achieving gender equality is one that is worthy of support, but not at the expense of men. Over $7 billion will go towards driving gender equality and $1.7 billion will fund measures to address gender-based violence. What concerns me is the fact that 25 per cent of victims appear to be excluded from this suite of policies because one in four victims of domestic violence are men. I have spoken in this place about the need to address a Family Court system that is broken and a concerning lack of recognition of parental alienating behaviours by both governments and our court system.

I and One Nation will continue advocacy in this space and urge for a fairer legal system that discourages expensive adversarial court action. I support the goal of achieving equitable outcomes for men and women, but we need to ensure there is a merit-based system that will put forward the best candidate rather than one that favours one group of people over another.

Similarly, I have strong concerns about the favouritism inserted into the federal budget that benefits supporters of the case for an Indigenous Voice to parliament. Over $75 million will go towards preparations for a referendum on the Voice, and $1.5 million specifically for commemoration activities associated with Kevin Rudd's apology to the stolen generations. These are just two aspects of a much larger $1 billion-plus spend on measures to close the gap and assist Aboriginal Australians.

I question the tangible benefits that will be derived for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with this funding. I am particularly concerned that an income tax deduction will only be extended to those who support the 'yes' case. Federal governments are supposed to provide equally for both the yes and no cases in referendums, and I see this as favouritism by the Albanese government that seeks to bankroll support for the Voice.

I want to see tangible beneficial outcomes for First Nations Australians, which is why I am stridently pursuing amended vaping laws. We know that Aboriginal smoking rates are as much as four times higher than that of non-Aboriginal populations and that two out of three continuing smokers will die from smoking. By regulating vapes as a consumer product and providing for greater access for adult smokers wishing to quit, many First Nations lives will be saved.

I welcome an announcement that the age eligibility for Australians wishing to downsize their home has been lowered from 60 to 55. One Nation had a pre-election policy to reduce stamp duty, and I have pushed for a review into this outdated tax that has not been revised for 15 years. South Australians pay amongst the highest stamp duty rates in the country, which is I why I seek a review and want concessions introduced for first-home buyers and even greater incentives for those wishing to downsize.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.