Topics: Migration, housing

PETER STEFANOVIC (HOST): Alright, let’s keep that conversation going with Labor MP Peter Khalil and Liberal Senator James Paterson. Peter, we’ll start off with you. Is our migration system failing?


Yes, it’s broken. Good morning, Peter. Good morning, James. The migration system is broken. It’s in need of systemic reform. It’s unstrategic. It’s slow, it’s unplanned. Over the last nine years, under a Liberal government, it’s become a dog’s breakfast, frankly, and one of my main criticisms of the migration system – and I’ve written about this in op-eds – is the creation of what I would call permanent temporary workers, where there’s been an increase of temporary visas for temporary workers, whereas permanent migration has remained pretty much steady and unmoved. And these temporary workers have been underpaid, they’ve been exploited. And for me, the real problem with this is that Australia, when we had a migration system where we were having migrants come here, settle permanently, put a stake in the ground, start businesses, commit to becoming Australians like my parents who came here some 50 odd years ago – these are the types of migrants we want. They built Australia effectively post-World War Two. We haven’t seen that, that hasn’t been encouraged. So we’re losing people as well in a competitive sense to other countries where we don’t have a migration system that captures the best skilled migrants, those who want to become Australians.

And I heard what Sussan Ley said, and very quickly, I’ll say this: please. Please. They increased temporary migration numbers. They effectively doubled under the previous government. And they talked about congestion busting – they did a small cut to permanent migration, but temporary visas doubled, and 87% of those temporary visas, those workers, were in Sydney and Melbourne. So talk about congestion. The previous government actually added to that with their smoke and mirror play about the migration system. So we are seeking to fix this. There’s gonna be some major overhaul, and the minister’s gonna be talking about that today. 

STEFANOVIC: There is that, but also you had the issue of COVID which basically reduced migration to zero, James, and now we’ve gotta play catch up, don’t we? But what’s the ceiling here? Because you let too many folks in, rents jack up – housing continues to become more unaffordable. So again, what’s the number here? 

JAMES PATERSON, SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Well, Peter, there’s no question, as Peter Khalil said, that migration built this country. We’re a stronger, richer country today than we would otherwise be if it wasn’t for the millions of migrants who’ve come from all around the world and chose to make Australia home. But the size and the composition and the timing of that migration intake are legitimate areas for public debate. And the government has been very critical and have had a lot of rhetoric about the migration system. It’s time for them to front up and provide some answers. What is their plan? How many people do they intend to bring? How are they going to reduce the numbers of temporary visa holders while also solving the skills shortages? And how are they gonna house the people that want to come here when we are facing the housing affordability and rental crisis? If Claire O’Neill isn’t able to provide answers to that today, then really I think we’ll all be wondering what the government has been doing for their first year in office if they’re not coming up with answers to those problems.

STEFANOVIC: We had this story a few weeks ago: 650,000 was gonna be the number this financial year and last. Is that gonna be too many for those reasons, Pete – rent and housing prices?

KHALIL: Yeah, there’s no doubt there are pressures on infrastructure, on housing, rental pressures as well. And James is right in the sense that you’ve gotta get the balance right. My argument, of course, is that the previous government increased temporary work visas and actually added to this problem to a certain extent, while not increasing or reducing permanent skilled migration, which is what we actually need to drive not just our economy, but our community. As we said, we both agree that it was built on migration, but the type of migration is really, really important. And so, yes, investment in housing: we’ve got a $10 billion housing fund, ask James why they’re opposing it. I think it’s coming up to the Senate. We’re trying to find and push through policies that will address some of these pressures and yet we’ve got an opposition that will not support that. 

STEFANOVIC: Well, why not support it, James? 

PATERSON: Well, because we have a very serious budget situation and the government is engaging in a whole series of off-book transactions where they’re gonna take on billions of dollars of debt for uncertain benefit at a time when interest rates are increasing and rising repayments on that debt is one of the greatest pressures on the budget. I’m very skeptical that that will make any material difference to the housing challenges we face. And it might make the fiscal problems that we face even more serious. I mean, this government’s gotta be serious about these issues if they actually wanna increase the supply of housing, what are they doing to do that, other than just spending more money, spending more taxpayer’s money in an inflated, overheated economy that we’re already struggling with the cost of living?

KHALIL: With all due respect, James, what it actually is, is 30,000 new houses, social and public housing. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade and maintain public housing. It’s thousands of new homes for vulnerable Australians, like women and children, who are fleeing domestic violence, and particularly, one of the largest increases in homelessness are women, single women above 55. That is real. And I can’t understand – on one hand you’re saying “it’s off-book, it’s uncertain”. On the other hand, you’re saying, “oh, we’ve gotta do something about it, where are these houses gonna come from”? They’re gonna come from legislation that we’re trying to get through the Parliament so that we can get on and invest in those new houses and you’re blocking it.

PATERSON: I’m interested to hear, Peter, that legislation can build houses. Last time I checked, it was people that build houses, and we’ve got a massive shortage of workers who build houses. We’ve got a shortage of the key supplies that go into building houses and that’s why that building industry is on the brink. I don’t think a new bill to the Parliament is gonna build a single new home.

STEFANOVIC: Alright, we’ll leave it there. We could keep going, but it’s good to have this debate about migration. It’s a timely one, but we’re out of time, James. We’ll see you soon. Talk to you soon. Coming up. 







Subjects: Anti-trans rally, Neo-Nazis

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: In the aftermath of the confronting protest outside Victoria’s parliament, the state government is moving to ban the Nazi salute. On Saturday, a group of about 30 men from the Nationalist Socialist network marched along Spring Street in Melbourne, disrupting counter rallies held by anti-transgender activists and pro-transgender rights activists, but experts are divided over whether a ban on the Nazi salute will have an impact on far-right extremism. Labor MP Peter Khalil is the chair of the Federal Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He joins us now, Peter, welcome.


KARVELAS: This isn’t the first time Neo-Nazis have publicly saluted in Victoria. Are we seeing a rise in far-right extremism?

KHALIL: The answer unfortunately is yes. All the security and intelligence agencies have indicated that one of the increases in threats and their assessment is that far-right extremism, Neo-Nazis and other groups, white supremacist groups, are one of the groups that are on the rise as far as they’re a threat to our social cohesion, our society, and this is really, really disturbing, Patricia, for a whole host of reasons, obviously. As we all know Nazism and that fascist kind of ideology is built on hatred, on ignorance, on violence, on discrimination, against not just trans people, but gay people, right throughout all identities, ethnic identities, Muslims and Jews. This is an ideology that has been responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews, millions of others based on their identity during World War Two and this salute itself is a kind of symbol of that hatred that there’s been a continuum of this since World War Two. No one can be under any illusions about what that means. So, I think the Premier of Victoria is spot on by saying there is no place for Nazis in our state, in our country and they’re taking some actions around that, but we shouldn’t think that banning the salute will be the only thing that is necessary to address this problem.

KARVELAS: What else will be necessary?

KHALIL: There are deeper and structural problems here. Often, the rise of the far-right occurs when there might be issues around inequality or socioeconomic issues, people are manipulated in the community. Let’s not forget what they are trying to do here. They are picking, in this case, it was targeting the trans community. They pick out minorities to attack, they try and sew division and hatred and fear of the other, that is their ideological playbook. We should be aware of that and the way that they try and manipulate and get oxygen in their actions and trying to manipulate the community, we need to address that.

Now the security intelligence agencies play a role in that, but more broadly, as a society, we have to address some of those underlying issues, and it starts with education, it starts with people at a younger age not being captured by or radicalized by these types of groups. There’s a lot of work being done by the federal government across not just the Security Intelligence agency, but I know across the entire government, because this is fundamental to our social cohesion as a nation.

We talk a lot Patricia about multiculturalism and the diversity of our nation as a strength and that’s all very, very true, but there are those who would seek to divide us based on our ethnicity, based on our identity, based on our sexual orientation and that is the contest that is going on now and unfortunately there has been a rise of these groups, particularly over the last 5-10 years.

KARVELAS: The Group of Neo-Nazis showed up at the rally, organised by UK gender activist Kellie Jay Keen and supporters in Australia, including a parliamentarian in Victoria. Do you believe there is a link between the two groups? Because the women that were demonstrating against transgender rights, those women say we’re not linked.

KHALIL: I’ve seen a lot of commentary and different accounts of the event. With any political demonstration or protest, it’s important to go back to the first principles, why are you there? And if you’re there for a vision for a fair and more just society, if you’re an activist in that respect, great. But if you’re there for the opposite, there’s a big question mark, and if you’re attempt at civil dialogue is attracting Neo-Nazis to your protest, then there really needs to be a reassessment of the approach.

Now I know John Pessuto, the Victorian Liberal leader, is taking a leadership position here and seeking to ban the MP that was involved in that rally and that’s something that he’s doing. I would hope that the federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton also shows the same level of leadership and condemns that type of behavior, condemns the Nazis. Remember, he’s a former defence minister, there were 40,000 Australians who died in World War Two fighting fascism and fighting the Nazis. People died to give us the country that we’re living in today effectively, that generation, which not many of them are left. So, I would hope that he comes down and condemns this unequivocally and supports his colleague in the Victorian Liberal Party.

KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KHALIL: Thanks, Patricia.




DATE: 21/03/2023

Subjects: Iraq War, cost of living crisis, Ukraine War, healthcare, energy crisis, housing

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. There was obviously in the House yesterday an acknowledgement of the anniversary of the Iraq War and the men and women who served in that conflict. I just wanted to point out, Deputy Speaker, that all the Australian men and women who were asked to serve, men and women of the ADF, defence officials, diplomats, other security officials who were asked to serve in Iraq, did so whether they agreed or not with the war, whether they had issues themselves with the reasoning behind the war. They did their duty, and they did their obligation and went and served their country in uniform or in their capacity as a security or defence official in Iraq. There’s been a lot of commentary around the past 20 years and what it has meant to the Iraqi people and obviously we have also lost service personnel in Iraq, in that conflict as well, and we grieve for their families. I just wanted to make a note on this occasion, Deputy Speaker, that I spent a year in Iraq. I was asked to serve as a security and defence official in Iraq. I had made it publicly known in some media that I thought the war was wrong, that it was a strategic error but that it was also a humanitarian disaster that unfolded. But having said that, the people that did go to Iraq, the Australians who served there, whether they agreed or not with the war, they also had a responsibility after the Saddam regime had been removed to help rebuild that country and they did so professionally, and they achieved a lot in respect of that rebuilding. Iraq has had a lot of problems over many years, but it still is intact as a sovereign state and some of that, I think, is due to the work that Australians did at the time in helping rebuild the structures, the political and economic parts of that country during that period and it’s important to note the service of all Australians who spent time there.

Deputy Speaker, closer to home, we know as a government that cost of living is front of mind for many Australians right now. The basics are costing a lot more, Australians are walking away from the supermarket with less for their money, rising interest rates are making it harder to pay the mortgage and many renters are feeling the pressure of costs being passed onto their increased rent, and surging rents have kept many Australians trapped in the rental cycle for prolonged periods. So, we know this as a government, the Albanese Government is acutely aware of how difficult it is right now for people just to get by and that’s why we’re so focused on doing what we can to relieve the pressure on Australians.

Now, although we’ve been in power for some 10 months, we’ve done a fair bit to relieve that pressure so far. I’ll just run through a couple of them very quickly, Deputy Speaker, the childcare changes – as many parents would know, childcare costs are such a significant burden, and our cheaper childcare reforms will help families save up to 90% on their childcare. This will be providing much needed relief from 1st July this year and it will make childcare more affordable and accessible for Australian families and ensure families with children in care are better off.

The Albanese Government also has reformed paid parental leave, which recently passed the Parliament, which will now better meet the needs of modern Australian families with a single parent paid parental leave scheme. From 1st of July, new parents will be able to use a total of 20 weeks leave as they choose, sharing the leave, however it works best for that particular family. Parents will also be able to access leaving multiple blocks as small as one day with periods of work in between. The new combined family income level will also see nearly 3000 additional parents become eligible to access paid parental leave and have access to that 20 weeks of paid parental leave increased from 18 weeks. This is just a start. There’s more to do to help working families, and we will be delivering on paid parental leave of 26 weeks in 2026.

We’re also delivering cheaper medicine, and that’s already occurred, Deputy Speaker. Over 3.2 million prescriptions were cheaper in the first two months of this year and thanks to our policy, which came into effect on the 1st of January, Australians have saved more than $36 million since that time. The maximum out of pocket cost for most medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is now $12.50 lower. For a family relying on two or three medications, that’s going to put as much as $450 back into the household budget, back into people’s pockets. That’s real. That’s making a difference to people. It’s delivering real savings, it’s relieving the pressure on families because of actions taken by the Labor Government – the Albanese Government. We are also working to strengthen Medicare and reduce the pressure on hospitals. That’s part of our $750 million package of strengthening the Medicare fund package which will implement the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Task Force Report. We’re delivering 220 million in infrastructure grants to strengthen general practice and we’re delivering 50 urgent care centres that will be rolled out over the course of this year. We’re committed to making it easier for people to see their GP and we’re expanding the Senior Health Care Card, helping more Australians access cheaper medicines and on their visits to the GP. This is why the government is committed to this, because it’s ensuring Australians receive the quality healthcare they deserve.

Now Deputy Speaker, we all are aware, I think it’s a fact we all know, that Russia’s illegal, abhorrent invasion of Ukraine has led globally to energy prices going to historic levels. Now, as much as the opposition will want to politicize this, that’s just a fact. It’s a reality of that war, and the Albanese Labor Government has taken action, though, to help shield Australians from the worst of those rising energy costs. Last week’s release of the draft default market offer, the DMO for electricity, showed increases that are up to 29 percentage points lower than the Australian Energy Regulator projected late last year. Now that wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for the action taken by the Albanese Government to cap late last year when we were called back to Parliament, all of us remember this, where we were asked to cap prices of domestic coal and gas. And if we hadn’t done that, Deputy Speaker, the increases would have been much more significant with estimates around 40 to 50% instead of 20 to 22%. That energy price relief plan includes consumer and small business rebates to protect Australians from the worst of the rising energy costs. That included targeted relief on power bills to households receiving income support, pensioners, Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card holders, Family Tax Benefit A&B recipients and small business customers. That’s the investment into those people, those Australians. I’ve got to say, those opposite said “no”. They voted against that relief. That’s also a fact that can never actually be changed. We came back because we knew how serious this was, we recalled Parliament, we came back to vote on this energy price relief bill and those opposite voted “no”. They voted “no” to relief. You voted “no”. You voted “no”. You voted “no” to that relief. And those facts will be there, indelibly, in the Hansard record, in the historical record, you opposed price relief for all of those Australians and that is something that you are responsible for. Thankfully Deputy Speaker, we got it through the Parliament and it is having an effect as I said.

Lastly, Deputy Speaker, I do want to touch on something else that they might be opposing, I hope not. But we all know that safe and affordable housing is central to the security and dignity of all Australians. It’s something I understand personally, as does the Minister for Housing, as does the Prime Minister. We grew up in a housing commission, we’re all housos, proud of it because it gave us a roof over our head, it gave us stability, it was something that allowed us to then maximize our potential and our contribution to this great country. So many Australians are struggling with rising rents, mortgage payments, struggling to buy a home. And sadly, too many are experiencing homelessness. That’s why our government is committed to a $10 billion Australia housing future fund and putting that in place. That’s 30,000 new social and affordable homes. It’s the most significant investment in generations, and it will deliver our commitments to help address acute housing needs: $200,000,000 for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing and remote Indigenous communities. It will ensure Australians have access to safe and affordable housing, reduce the pressure on the rental market, help provide 40% of the purchase price and repayments from new homes in the help-to-buy scheme for an existing home.

This is the Government focused on addressing the housing and rental crisis and those opposite want to oppose it. Again, you’re going to go down in history as opposing all the types of support necessary for Australians to get through this difficult period and you should be ashamed of that.





Subjects: Sports Gambling 


Thank you, Deputy Speaker. Well, the 2023 AFL season has got off to a cracking start; particularly given that the Magpies have defeated the reigning premiers Geelong, thumping them at the MCG on Friday night. I’ll remind the Deputy Prime Minister of that a little bit later as an avid Geelong supporter that he is; but right now, I want to speak about an issue many people in my community care about, and that’s the over saturation of gambling advertising during these sporting events.  

As a lot of people huddled around the TV or at stadiums last week, they were smashed with gambling ads from right before the bounce, right till after the sign all the way through sports embedded gambling ads normalized gambling, especially among young people. Australia’s gambling habit puts us on the top of a global list we don’t want to be on.  

Our losses per capita are amongst the highest in the world-online gambling alone- Australians spent about $7 billion on in 2021, and online gambling has made gambling more convenient easy to hide. It’s been spurred along by the never ending barrage of gambling ads, in Victoria there were 948 gambling ads on daily free to air TV in 2021. This equates to one in every 91 seconds, according to the Victorian responsible gambling foundation.  

I’m particularly concerned about the impact of this advertising on young people, many of whom can tell you the technical aspects of gambling. And I’m concerned for marginalized groups who experience inequality and gambling related harms. So I’m pleased that the Albanese government is introducing reforms that include nationally consistent messages around the potential harms of online gambling; messages that send a clearer, stronger message about the impacts of gambling and the need for us to curb and reform it, thank you. 





Subjects: LGBTQIA+ Health Announcement, Cost-of-Living 

FIONA BROOK, HOST, SATURDAY CO-HOST: You’re on Saturday Magazine with Nevena and Fiona. It is Saturday morning, just after 11:00 AM. 

NEVENA SPIROVSKA, SATURDAY CO-HOST: Fiona, we have our next guest on the line; the Federal Member for Wills, Peter Khalil. Peter, welcome to Saturday Magazine. 

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thanks for having me, Fiona and Nevena. Good to be on again. 

SPIROVSKA: Peter, there’s been some recent announcements made by the Albanese Government during World Pride in support of our community. We’d also like to talk to you about what’s coming up in the next sitting week. But firstly, what have you been up to, and tell us: did you make it out to World Pride? 

KHALIL: I didn’t, but the PM did, and he marched for the first time, which was a pretty significant act, I think, to show support. And look, Albo, he’s been a supporter for decades and this is just a natural thing for him to do. I know he was pretty chuffed about being able to walk in support during World Pride Day. But you know, all that is really important, and it’s not just symbolic, but the government is also looking at really serious efforts to support the community in other ways. I was talking to Jay Carney last night, actually, the Assistant Health Minister, and she’s just sort of overseeing this whole policy area around a 10-year National Action Plan for the health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s a significant investment, as well; some $26 million in health research grants and improving service delivery. And look, a lot of people that I talk to in the community tell me that – and the government knows this – there’s a lot of specific challenges in accessing healthcare. There’s various reasons for that; I guess stigma, unique and complex health challenges, other reasons that lead to poor physical and mental health; and a lot of advocates have been pushing for an action plan. So we’re delivering one, which is really good for the community, and it’s really about reforming the health system to improve access and outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people across Australia. So, you know – you’ve got to have the symbolism, but you’ve got to have the substance as well, really. 

BROOK: Well, absolutely. And also, you have some more work ahead of you because you’re going into some sitting weeks now. We’ve had Josh Burns on this morning to discuss some of the priorities for him and some of the bills ahead, but I thought it would be great to hear from you on what your priorities are for the coming sitting weeks, and what some of the barriers might be to getting those achievements. 

KHALIL: Look, for me and my role; the Prime Minister’s got me working on a lot of the intelligence and security work. I’m the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, so I do a lot of oversight around our intelligence agencies, our security agencies. That’s important work to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing – that there’s taxpayer dollars being spent wisely and correctly. So that’s a pretty intense workload because we have a number of inquiries ongoing when it comes to different elements about counterterrorism laws, our Intelligence Services Act, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme we’re reviewing. We review a lot of laws, so that keeps me pretty busy, that work. But more broadly, the government is looking at a number of really important bills next week, in Parliament particularly, and I think the first and foremost thing is going to be a bill around changing the processes around notifying Parliament and the Australian people when the Minister is actually appointed. And this is sort of the legacy of the Morrison Government; I think he was minister of 52 different portfolios or whatever, but – 

SPIROVSKA: 53, Peter, 53. 

KHALIL: 53, so I lost count. But I think that’s really important. People are really worried about the lack of trust in democracy, sort of a trust deficit in democracy. So I know the PM and our government are really keen to restore trust in democracy, and part of that is integrity. I think the crossbenchers are very much committed to that as well. It’s all about making sure that people can actually trust that governments are accountable, and that’s why we passed so quickly the National Anti-Corruption Commission into law, which is going to be starting very soon and it’s about making sure that the laws have transparency as front and centre and accountability. So this is the one we’re going to be doing. We found out actually last week, that there was another appointment of a close ally to the Department of Home Affairs, who manage important processes like visa applications and humanitarian programmes, a close ally of Morrison that was appointed to that role. So there really needs to be transparency restored to the system, and government should be held accountable as well. So that’s one thing; cost-of-living is the other big thing as well. People are really suffering with rental stress, mortgages, energy prices; the whole lot. And this is really everyone’s feeling. So we passed a law late last year to put a cap on energy prices to provide some relief, and that’s something we’re also putting through the Senate, as well this coming week, taking action on that to cap prices. So that’s really important for a lot of Australians across the community. 

SPIROVSKA: Peter, you are the chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, and this morning a major story has broken about the Australian Army launching an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers with links to Neo-Nazi groups, and they’ve also made links between extremist groups and the Australian Defence Force members. What are your feelings about this? Because these are incredibly important institutions, and what’s your message to any Neo-Nazis looking to infiltrate the Army, Queensland police, or the ADF? 

KHALIL: Yeah. Thanks for the question. Look, can I start with my personal feelings? I mean, listeners won’t be able to see this, but I am from an Egyptian background and a person of colour. I’ve experienced racism and attacks by Neo-Nazis over the decades; it used to be pretty bad back in the 80s. But personally I feel really upset about this infiltration – the rise of Neo-Nazi groups across Australia. This is, by the way, happening in other countries around the world. There’s this sort of phenomenon of far-right extremism. We weren’t going through all the analysis about it, but it is happening and it’s deeply concerning and it’s important that the Defence Department is moving so quickly to investigate, and being unequivocal about there being no place for this behaviour, these types of groups infiltrating our Defence Force or any of our security and intelligence agencies. And the defence do work very closely with our intelligence agencies to combat this type of extremism, in fact. You know, one of the single largest rises of threat is coming from the far right, and that’s been consistent over the last couple of years. So there is a strong vetting process, and I’m actually – my committee is overseeing the security vetting agency reforms to make sure that we are able to get out people who have come from extremist groups and so on. So this is really concerning; on a national level, I know that the Prime Minister at national cabinet just last month also agreed on the need for a national gun database, because a lot of these extremists have active weapons and so on – and making sure there’s a register across the space and territories that’s really important. And he highlighted the need for better cooperation across jurisdictions, so making sure that state and territory leaders are getting that interaction with Asia, which does a lot of that counterterrorism, counter-extremist work. The federal government is really committed to making sure our national security agencies have the resources available provided to all the states and territories to do what they need to do as well. But just in conclusion, my message is very clear. It is not acceptable for those groups to be part of our national security agencies, our security agencies, our defence force. Those forces are there to protect all Australians. That ideological – that far right extremist view – does not put the national interest first. It is a twisted, bitter ideology which is full of hate for others, for people who are different. And my view of Australia is one where, you know, obviously I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice and racism growing up, but nonetheless Australia has changed significantly and our multicultural diversity, our diversity across our difference is something to be celebrated and embraced. This is what makes Australia a better country, and this is something we all have to fight for constantly against those who use hateful ideology to try and separate us and divide us and to attack various groups; whether they be the LGBTQIA+ community, whether they be people from a diverse background, or a migrant background, or different faith group. It’s about making sure that we have a unity in this country and that’s the important work, I suppose, as a political leader, not just a politician – 

BROOK: Peter, we actually only have a couple of minutes left. I guess in that in that short time – do you think that China is going to invade Taiwan? 

KHALIL: Wow, one minute. Who asked that? Was that Fiona? Or Nevena?  

BROOK: This is Fiona. 

KHALIL: Fiona, you asked a really tough question. 

BROOK: I’m asking the tough questions today. 

KHALIL: Yeah, well, I’ve done a bit of media over the past couple of days around some of the attacks that Paul Keating, for example, Uncle Paul – who I have great respect for, by the way, he is one of our great Prime Ministers – who’s gone after Penny Wong, for example. I think there’s a misunderstanding about the achievements that you can get through soft power and diplomacy, and Penny’s been amazing in resetting our relationships across the Pacific of Southeast Asia. And the strategic purpose of what we’re trying to do is to actually reduce tension with China; to avoid confrontation and conflict. Diplomacy is a big part of that; defence capability is a part of that. It’s got to be done in combination. And frankly, my criticism of the previous government was that they beat the war drum significantly to whip up fear and anger. Our strategic goal is to have a good economic relationship with China and to deter – whether it be China or any other actors in the region – from using force or violence to reach their strategic ends, and diplomacy is a big part of that. And she’s been very successful in resetting those relationships and engaging across the region on things that are, frankly, existential for us and for Pacific Island states, like climate change and action on climate change. And so I think the answer to your question is: I’m not trying to avoid it, but what we want to do is try to avoid the scenario in which you’re painting and ensure that we continue with the kind of stability and security framework in the region that that has actually given us such quality of life and the prosperity that Australians enjoy. And that’s our goal. 

BROOK: Well, Peter, we could literally talk about this all day, but we have the marvellous Misha Ketchell coming up and we’re going to be able to chat with him, more about this. So thank you so much today for your time, and we look forward to catching up with you again really soon. 


Thanks, Fiona. Thanks, Nevena. Great to be on with you guys. Cheers 






Subjects: Cost of Living

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. We know people are doing it tough right now, it’s harder to pay the mortgage, to pay the rent, harder to pay bills and essentials. Australians are walking away from the supermarket with much less in their shopping bag than the money they’ve been spending in in the past. The Albanese Labor Government is acutely aware of how difficult it is right now for people just to get by. We are absolutely focused on doing what we can to relieve the pressure.  

Now you would know, Deputy Speaker, we’re experiencing sustained and unprecedented pressure on global energy markets. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has pushed energy prices to historic highs all over the world. That’s one of the big factors in energy prices, and the Albanese Government brought back Parliament in December last year to take action on rising energy costs. We passed the Energy Price Relief Plan to protect Australians from the worst of the rising energy costs. We delivered targeted relief on power bills to households receiving income support, pensioners, and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders, family Tax Benefits A and B recipients and small business customers. There is no doubt more work to do, but we took these actions to shield Australian families and businesses from the worst of the energy price spikes.  

We’re also delivering cheaper medicine, Deputy Speaker. From the 1st of January this year, we reduced the maximum PBS co-payment from $42.50 to $30. Since then, Australians have paid up to 29% less for their Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescriptions. The maximum out of pocket cost for medicines on the PBS is now $12.50 lower. So for a family relying on two or three medications, Deputy Speaker, and there are many families that do rely on that, this can put as much as $450 back into their household budget. That’s a significant assistance for those families. Over 3.2 million prescriptions were cheaper in the first two months of this year and thanks to our policy, patients have saved more than $36 million.  

We’ve also expanded access to the Seniors Health Care Card. More Australians can access cheaper medicine and visits to the GP. We also have fought and secured a pay rise for 2.8 million workers on minimum wage. We’ve delivered fee-free TAFE, making it easier for people to invest in their skills and training. And our changes to childcare, making it more affordable and accessible, come into effect on the 1st of July this year.  

Deputy Speaker, we know there is much more to do. Reducing pressure and giving relief where we can, as quickly as we can, is what the Albanese Labor Government is focused on and will continue to be focused on. Thank you. 




DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE IAN GOODENOUGH: And I call the honourable Member for Wills. 

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you so much, Deputy Speaker. I might commence my remarks by gently, maybe gently, reminding the member for Hinkler. He almost got there – he said 5 billion and then 10 billion. It’s just, you didn’t get to the equals part, because I remember from doing maths in grade six that 5 + 10 = 15. Now I can provide the member for Hinkler an abacus if it assists him, but 5 + 10 in our universe is 15, and the Albanese Labor Government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will transform Australian industry. It will create secure local jobs and it’s going to bring manufacturing back home. This is going to leverage Australia’s natural strengths, support the development of strategically important industries, and protect Australia’s supply chains. Now the member for Hinkler was talking about all the different areas – critical areas – that this would invest in – 

GOODENOUGH: Call the member for Hinkler. 

KEITH PITT, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR HINKLER: Member, the section number is 52 part 4, the Minister must ensure the total of the amounts credited to the account under subsection 2 before July 29 equals $10 billion. 

GOODENOUGH: I call the member for Wills. 

KHALIL: The member for Hinkler may have found his abacus there in his drawer, but I will say this: 5 – and I’m just quoting him back, Deputy Speaker – 5 billion, then 10 billion. That’s 15 billion in anyone’s mathematics, but anyway. Let’s leave that, because he did touch on the critical areas of investment, and they are important. They’re actually critical to Australia’s future. Resources, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, transport, medical science, renewables and low emission technologies; defence capability and enabling capabilities, and that is best described, Deputy Speaker, as including support for key enabling capabilities across engineering, data science, software development areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum, that are so important now as advanced technologies. These are key areas that you would think that everyone in this place, every member in this place, would get around and support, given their critical nature to Australia’s future. But I’ll come to that later, because this National Reconstruction Fund is also about jobs. Secure local, well-paid jobs for Australians; something that people in my local electorate of Wills know all too well. Many people in the north of my electorate worked at the Ford Factory in Broadmeadows; and they lost their jobs when it shut down in 2016. This fund is about rebuilding manufacturing in our country. It’s about bringing manufacturing back home, unlike those opposite, who tore through manufacturing – particularly car manufacturing – and had the audacity – a previous speaker had the audacity to try and claim it was a Labor Government’s fault when they themselves ripped out the guts of car manufacturing in this country. It was absolutely disgraceful, and I think at the time the Treasurer then went on to smoke a cigar to celebrate that effort – if I could call it that. This is about people’s livelihoods; their jobs. It’s about making things here again and setting up Australia as leaders in advanced manufacturing. It’s about our self-reliance and our sovereign capability.  

Now we saw during the difficult period that we all went through, when COVID was at its peak in the last couple of years – it exposed issues such as supply chains and resilience in those supply chains, that we were actually too reliant on some supply chains that were exposed. They impacted those supply chains, COVID impacted supply chains. And Australia was not prepared as we should have been. We as a government are doing something about that. It’s a big part of the National Reconstruction Fund. We took the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to the election in May last year. We have a mandate, and now we are delivering on our commitment to the Australian people. The Albanese Labor Government is focused on renewing, revitalizing, and rebuilding Australia’s manufacturing industry; for Australians, for small business owners, for the regions, and for jobs. We’re setting Australians up for the future, investing in jobs, making things here again. Now those opposite have done nothing in government to invest in Aussie manufacturing. Over 9 long years, they baited the Australian car industry, as I referred to, Deputy Speaker, they baited them into leaving the country. And they had 9 industry ministers in 9 years. 

 How could any one of those ministers even get on top of the portfolio? By the time they finish reading their briefs, they’re out the door, and the next person came in. And if that wasn’t bad enough; now in opposition, they’re playing the wreckers. They’re playing the role of wreckers. They’re opposing this fund. And what really gets to me, Deputy Speaker – what really grates – is that they are putting our national security at risk in doing this. The Minister for Industry pointed out, this week, that very fact: the opposition don’t seem to care that a big part of this fund is dedicated to advancing defence capability. That’s critical to Australia’s preparedness, both for working with our partners, for the Quad. They don’t care. They just want the politics of this; they just want to oppose. They’re not interested in our national security; they’re not interested in our national interests. It’s all short-term politics. The leopard hasn’t changed their spots; that’s what they were like in government. It was all about the short-term political message. Not about the long-term national interest. I remind those opposite that our partners – our regional partners, our allies, our friends – there is an expectation that Australia comes to the table with our efforts on technology and technological development and advancements; with our technological strength. And these developments are paramount to our national security and our national interest.  

The Minister for Industry noted that this National Reconstruction Fund is crucial to strengthening both our economic and our national security, long-term. That’s right; it’s about the long term. It’s not about the newspaper report the next day, which the opposition is so fond of trying to win. Yet despite the facts – the important fact that $2 billion of this National Reconstruction Fund is going to be pointed towards critical technology -AI, quantum technology, critical minerals – all of which are very important for our, as I said, the work that we’re doing with our international partners and our allies, both in the quad and in our AUKUS efforts for advanced capability. Despite this, the Coalition are still happy to stand in the way of this bill to oppose it. They talk a big game on national security Deputy Speaker. It’s a big talk, but when they’ve got the opportunity to walk the walk, they go and oppose. They go for the short-term political message. That’s not in Australia’s national interest. That’s not standing up for our national security. The fact that they are actively opposing this National Reconstruction fund is quite extraordinary. It’s extraordinary, given their rhetoric, and that needs to be called out; because on one side of the mouth they talk about our national security and getting our defence capability, and they make a big song and dance about that. And then they oppose the funding that will go towards those advanced capabilities. It’s extraordinary. 

 I’m interested to know from the opposition; what part of this National Reconstruction Fund do they actually oppose? Is it investment in renewable technology? Because you’ve been pretty much opposed to that right from the beginning. That could be it, Deputy Speaker. Is it an opposition to investment in advanced manufacturing capabilities? Is that what it is? Don’t think we could be that advanced? Don’t think we have the technology or the technical ability, or the workforce; is that what it is? You’re opposed to advanced manufacturing in this country? Because this is where this what this fund is largely about: getting that up and running and really turbocharging it. Are you opposed to that? Maybe not. Maybe they’re opposed, Deputy Speaker, to good, secure local jobs for Australians. Maybe, given the way they killed the car manufacturing industry in this country, and saw thousands of jobs walk out the door, and thousands of Australians lose their jobs in manufacturing, and then smoked a cigar about it and celebrated it, maybe they’re opposed to the job creation that comes out of this fund. Maybe that’s what it is. You know, I’m trying to guess here because I haven’t really heard any good reason. Are they opposed to creating jobs because this fund’s also going to create new jobs in new and advanced manufacturing jobs in technology? In exciting new sectors. Maybe they’re opposed to creating jobs, they don’t like that. Maybe not. Maybe, Deputy Speaker, they’re opposed to growing the economy. Maybe they don’t want Australia to succeed. That’d be a poor position to take as an opposition – “Let’s prevent the growth of the Australian economy by killing this fund” – that’s pretty cynical, if that’s what they’re doing it for.  

Let me ask this, are you opposed to making our supply chains more resilient? Which is a big part of this fund and the investment that goes to it. Is that what it is? Because we all saw how exposed our supply chains were over the last couple of years. So it really shocks me that you would be opposed to making those supply chains that we are so reliant on more resilient. I think it could be all of the above. It could be one or two of them; whatever their reasoning is, it is really making it harder for Australians to get those jobs and to do the things that we need to do in the coming decade. They are all opposition and no policy. And Deputy Speaker, I know it might be useless, it might be futile, there might be no point in it; but I ask the opposition to rethink. Rethink their position. Act in good faith. Negotiate on some amendments if that’s what it is. But outright opposition to the National Reconstruction Fund is outright opposition to advancing Australia and our national interests. That’s what it is, and you will be called out for it.  

The opposition will be called out for your wrecking. The wrecking ball that you’re putting to this bill. And the wrecking ball that you’re putting to Australian jobs; the wrecking ball that you’re putting to our advanced capability and our manufacturing in this country. I ask them to rethink. There are good members on the other side, Deputy Speaker, they care about Australia’s future. They care about Australia’s national interest. They would know that $15 billion invested in manufacturing in advanced manufacturing and technology and capability and supply chain resilience is good for Australia. Maybe they’ll have the courage in their party room to stand up to their leader and say “no”. We should negotiate. Let’s try to let’s try and put up an amendment or something, but we should back this bill in because it’s good for Australians, it’s good for our constituents. I’m asking you to back Australian-made. I’m asking you to back Australian jobs. I’m asking you to back the Australian economy. I’m asking you to do the right thing and not oppose the National Reconstruction Fund




Subjects: The Voice, Iran & Myanmar Sanctions 

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Later today, the referendum working group will brief the Opposition leader on their work around the Voice to Parliament. But across the nation, supporters are mobilising public events. Government MPs are holding town hall forums, with one being held in the seat of Wills last night. Peter Khalil is the Labor MP for Wills and the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He joins me now. Welcome to the programme. 


KARVELAS: Are people in your electorate raising the Voice with you? 

KHALIL: Yes, they are. In fact, we had such a turnout last night at the forum that people were sort of spilling out onto the street. It was a remarkable turnout. People are very interested to engage in a conversation about the referendum that’s coming up around the Voice. So that was really encouraging. And I said to everyone in my introductory remarks: all are welcome. Obviously, there were many people who support the Voice in the audience, [along with] those who are undecided or want to hear more about it and understand more about the proposal and those who might oppose [it]. But as long as everyone was respectful in the conversation, all were welcome. 

KARVELAS: So, obviously your electorate is quite diverse. It’s an area I’m quite across. But there are some very progressive parts of your electorate. There has been a split in the progressive side on the left – were those issues raised? Are people sort of questioning what would happen? 

KHALIL: People asked questions right across the board – really detailed questions. I should say, our guests were Marcus Stewart, the co-Chair of the Victorian First People’s Assembly from the Taungurung Nation, and Professor Marcia Langton, a Yiman woman and long-term Indigenous activist and co-author of the proposal. They were very knowledgeable people. They had great insight, they had great knowledge that they shared with the audience. Look, I just want to say for people listening what I said to people to frame our conversation last night is that you might disagree. You might be undecided. But Australia has from time to time jolted out of our complacency to be called to make big decisions about our nation and reshaping our nation – our national story, who we are, who we might be, decisions that shape our identity and our purpose, shape our collective future, really. And this is one of those moments. It’s an important one. It’s an important conversation because this referendum I think – and this was sort of coming out last night too – goes to the heart of our nation and who we are. It really is about deciding whether we have a constitutionally enshrined – a guaranteed – First Nations Voice to Parliament. So, there are a lot of questions about what that is, how that would work, questions around – you mentioned the split, if you call it that – questions around sovereignty. And then there are many constitutional and legal experts and legal advice that we talked about last night that made a very strong point. Having a Voice to Parliament would not impact the questions around sovereignty at all. So, we discussed that quite extensively, and I thought it was a very respectful and a very useful conversation for my constituents. 

KARVELAS: One of the things we keep hearing is that there’s not enough detail or information. Did that come through? 

KHALIL: No, because as Marcia Langton I think very clearly pointed out there are 800 Pages of details and 20-plus years of work. I mean, this is really a culmination of decades of work by Indigenous leaders. The Uluru Statement from the Heart had hundreds of Indigenous leaders who came together from around Australia who, in the first Aboriginal Constitutional Convention, put forward the Statement from the Heart. People can read the detail behind that, the expert panel reports, all the different work that has been done over 20-plus years – and Marcia pointed that out to people in the audience: that people can make the effort to actually look at that detail. It’s been provided. Marcus also made the point that a lot of this is disinformation by opponents who are saying that there’s no detail when there actually is. We did almost 2 hours of a forum, so there was plenty of detail discussed about how the referendum would occur and how it’d work, what the questions might be and all the rest of it. So, I don’t pay much attention to that particular argument [that] there’s no detail. 

KARVELAS: Just changing topics in the last couple of minutes, a Senate inquiry has found Australia’s government needs to take steps to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation and expand the list of individuals and entities targeted by the Magnitsky sanctions should this happen. 

KHALIL: My committee – as you mentioned at the start, I’m the Chair of the Intelligence Security Committee – would be looking at that question if it was raised through the Senate Select Committee, and if the government was to consider that recommendation, we would be the committee that would be determining the ins and outs of that. I should say for listeners: I have been a very strong advocate and supporter for increasing sanctions on the theocratic regime in Iran. Obviously, since the murder of Mahsa “Jina” Amini, there’s been massive protests in Iran. We’ve seen that before over decades, but this time it’s different. Patricia there’s a psychological difference here [with] the young people, all people of all ages who are protesting and standing up to the regime. It’s not so much about reforming or making some peripheral changes or changing when women could wear a headscarf. Women and girls and young people are out there saying “enough”. We don’t want this regime anymore. It’s got to go. And it’s very, very significant. I think we’re at a moment in history where we must be on the right side of history in supporting the people of Iran. The courage and passion that they’ve shown is remarkable in standing up to the so-called morality police and the besieging militia. The government has just announced extended sanctions on Iran, on 16 law enforcement and military officials as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard members, and financial sanctions as well. 

KARVELAS: Peter Khalil, many thanks for joining us this morning. 

KHALIL: Thanks, Patricia. Cheers. 

KARVELAS: The Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Peter Khalil. 






Subjects: Housing Australia Future Fund 


I call the honourable member for Wills.  


Thank you, Deputy Speaker. The Albanese government understands that safe and affordable housing is central to the security and dignity of Australians. It’s something I understand personally, as does the Minister for Housing and the Prime Minister: the three of us are all housos – grew up in housing commissions, and we’re proud of it. Public housing gave my family more than just a roof over our head; it gave us a safe place to call home. It supported a young migrant family as we worked hard to build a life in Australia. It gave us the security to allow my sister and I to pursue education and give back to our country, which gave us so much. That is what safe and affordable housing means. It means dignity. It means opportunity. Too many Australians are being hit by rising rents and mortgage payments. Too many Australians are struggling to buy a home. And sadly, too many Australians are facing or experiencing homelessness. That’s why we have an ambitious housing reform agenda to ensure more Australians have a safe and affordable place to call home.  

This housing package is a comprehensive suite of measures to build more social and affordable houses. It is one of the most significant Australian government investments in housing in a generation. The legislation implements the government’s commitments to establish a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to provide a stream of funding to ensure there is a pipeline of new social and affordable housing for Australians in need. It’s 30,000 new homes, $200,000,000 for acute needs with Indigenous communities and housing, $30 million for veterans who are experiencing homelessness. $575,000,000 injection into the National Housing Infrastructure Facility for immediate use for social and affordable housing. It’s also about transforming the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation into Housing Australia as a national home for key housing programs to expand its activities. It’s also about establishing the National Housing supply and Affordability Council to provide independent advice to government on ways to increase housing supply and affordability.  

All these commitments, Deputy Speaker, are part of the government’s broader housing reform agenda, which includes the landmark National Housing Accord: a shared ambition to build 1,000,000 well located homes over five years from 2024; $350 million in additional Commonwealth funding to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over five years from 2024, matched by the states with another 10,000 homes; widening the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, made up of $575 million immediately available to invest in social and affordable housing; developing a National Housing and Homelessness Plan to set short, medium and long term goals to improve housing outcomes across Australia; implementing the regional first home buyer guarantee, which has already helped more than 1600 Australians into home ownership, and the Help to Buy program which will reduce the cost of buying a home and help people into a home sooner.  

Deputy Speaker, the government has also expanded all of these efforts in a focus in addressing the housing crisis and easing the cost of living. But what about those on the other side, Deputy Speaker, who we’ve heard from? Well, it wasn’t enough for the previous Coalition government to discontinue the National Rental Affordability Scheme. It wasn’t enough for the previous Coalition government to abolish the National Housing Supply Council. They claimed that housing was a state issue, yet they couldn’t bring together state and territory housing ministers for the last five years. Couldn’t even do that for five years. Now they’re lining up to oppose this critical $10 billion investment in affordable housing – and this is at a time when Australians are struggling with increasing rents, increasing mortgage payments, and increasing house prices. At a time when we are, as a government, taking real action on these issues after 9 long years of wasted time under their zero leadership. Zero. 

And it’s not just the Libs. I hear that the unholy alliance between the Greens political party and the Liberals might be back. I hope not. It seems that if the Greens want to make the perfect enemy of the good, which is part of their MO, that they might seek the $10 billion investment in affordable housing. That’s not coming into this place to build, to be constructive. It’s coming into this place to wreck. And I’m shocked that they might be happy to join the Coalition in doing that, in opposing this bill. The simple truth for the Greens Party is that they talk big on housing, but the rubber hits the road here, Deputy Speaker, when you vote on reality – and the reality of impacting millions of Australians and their access to housing. And I urge them: in good faith, we’ll negotiate with them. As we always do, we’ll even in good faith negotiate with the opposition if they’re willing to talk about amendments. But I urge them not to join up with the coalition to kill this bill. 

Just two months ago – the Member for Melbourne – he’s not here, but he’s the leader of the Greens – he sent a message to supporters asking them to think about the homeless and those struggling to pay the rent over Christmas. Did he talk about the Greens Party’s support for the government’s public housing investment? No. He told people that if they really care about the homeless, they should donate to the Greens political party. Now, the Albanese government won’t use housing stress to shake down people for money. We won’t promise false hope with failed policies, and we won’t stand in here and play political games like those on the other side and some of those on the crossbench who may oppose this bill. I hope they don’t. I hope the minor parties, the Greens and the crossbenchers understand the importance of this. 

I hold out that hope, even though I know that there are many, many local councilors from the Greens, for example, who have opposed public and affordable housing in their local council decisions. And I know that this is the case in the in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, where public and social and affordable housing is desperately needed, there has been opposition by Greens councilors. I hope that’s not replicated here in the Parliament of Australia. I hope they don’t team up with the Coalition to threaten billions of dollars of critical investment in public housing. Because if they decide to make the perfect enemy of the good and they don’t get what they want on amendments, for example, in a good faith negotiation, and they team up with those on the other side and oppose this bill, they will go down in ignominy. They will be going against millions of people that this bill will help – millions of Australians. These are people fleeing domestic violence. These are people who fought for our country and served. These are First Nation Australians who live in remote areas. These are people who need a home. So I ask the opposition to reconsider their position. I asked the Greens political party to work with us and the crossbenchers. Work with us to invest and implement these critical reforms that are so needed for so many Australians. What are we here for, if not to serve them in that capacity, in good faith? Work with us to provide the national leadership to address housing affordability across Australia. 






Subjects: Paid Parental Leave 


And I call the member for Wills.  


Thank you, Mr Speaker. Look, greater flexibility has become a persistent theme over the last few years. Many have benefited from greater time at home, online meetings, more flexible leave arrangements, working from home. It’s made, for a lot of Australians, juggling everyday responsibilities easier. And it’s given many people time for the things that really matter to them. The important things: more time with family, more time with friends, more time to focus on physical and mental wellbeing. More time to explore new passions. For new parents, though, some of that list sounds like a bit of a fantasy list, given the pressures that are placed on them. Also, with parents in general, frankly, until their kids are out the door after university. But for new parents, the biggest barriers to flexibility, I think, come up in one of the most important times in their lives. We know that Australia has a generous paid parental scheme. Globally, it’s one of the better ones, but there are still significant improvements needed when it comes to flexibility and equity. That’s what this bill seeks to do to; make paid parental leave more flexible and more equitable for Australian families. It’s going to combine the current 18 weeks for the primary carer and two weeks for the other parent into a single twenty-week scheme, allowing parents to make decisions about how they utilize paid parental leave flexibility. It’s going to remove the notion of primary and secondary claimants, and the requirement that the primary claimant must be the birth parent.  

This change will reflect the fact that the families of modern Australia come in all shapes and sizes, with different responsibilities and commitments. It gives parents choice in how they structure their leave days and their transition back to work. It gives parents the option to split leave as they see fit, rather than one parent being entitled to 18 weeks while the other is limited to two. Whilst many parents may still decide that one takes most of the time, it allows them – the parents – to make that decision. That’s important, because we know that the current arrangements particularly restrict women in returning to work. We know that women are more often the primary carer, on average and as far as the data goes. And unless they take their first 12 weeks of leave at once, they forfeit the remaining six weeks, which can be used flexibly. They are effectively penalized if they choose to return to work in their first 12 weeks of leave, even if it is just for a day or two a week. A lot of mums – and I know this is a bit of anecdotal thing – have had their second or third and are like “I want to go back to work now”. Some mums choose to stay the whole year with their newborn. This especially happens with the first born, but I think once you get to the second or third, they’re like “See you later! I’m going back to work”. Fair enough. We want to give women the flexibility to make their own arrangements under this scheme. This is really important, to give them a real choice. The decision is not going to be made for them; they get to make the decision. This bill will allow women greater freedom over when they return to work by allowing leave to be used flexibly from day one. It’s a change that supports advancing women’s economic equality. This is a key goal of our government, the Albanese Labor Government. It provides greater access, as well, to fathers and partners who are often limited to only two weeks of leave, despite wanting to share the load in that period. And this includes all sorts of parents; LGBTQI parents, or parents who have adopted kids, or who have been forced to split leave in ways that might not suit their family’s needs.  

These changes give parents the choice on when they return to work. Payment days may be taken in multiple blocks as small as a day at a time, with periods of work in between, within two years of the of the birth or adoption of the child. This is real flexibility, Deputy Speaker. It gives people choice, and that’s why these are such important elements of this bill; to give parents that choice. It also reflects the Albanese government’s commitment to improve the lives of working families; to give them that choice. It’s an improvement in their quality of life; support better outcomes for the children as well, and advance women’s economic equality, as we’ve noted. These reforms will reserve a portion of the scheme for each parent to support them both to take time off work after the birth of the child or adoption of the child. The elements of this bill follow, effectively, the advice and consultation of many experts and stakeholders, who were clear about the need for reserved portions to promote shared care and gender equality. It’s come from the data from the evidence base that has informed the drafting of this bill and this policy. Engagement with stakeholders has, of course, been a key feature of this bill. Paid parental leave reform was one of the most frequent proposals raised at the recent Successful Jobs and Skills Summit back in September last year. Because when we brought the stakeholders and leaders from across Australia together to develop solutions on the big challenges facing our nation, guess what? We were serious. And this is what came up. We were serious in our commitment to listening to Australians and delivering what we think are common sense changes that make their lives better.  

That’s part of being a good government, and the changes in this bill fit that motivation; fit that course of action. They have been widely welcomed in the October 2022 – 2023 budget. And these changes are, Mr Speaker, the most significant step to improving the paid parental leave scheme since its establishment by a then Labor government back in 2011. It wasn’t perfect then; we’re suggesting some improvements. That’s a sign of good government. Always evolving; always looking to improve; always listening and making sure that we’re meeting the needs of Australians, and in this case particularly parents, giving them that much needed flexibility as I’ve described. This is going to benefit 181,000 families across Australia. 181,000 families. That’s going to be around 4300 currently ineligible people who will get access to paid parental leave by lifting the family income limit to 350,000. That’s 4300 people, who are currently ineligible, who are going to get access. That’s great. And of course, we will continue, Mr Speaker, the reforms that improve the lives of Australians, including legislation later this year that will expand paid parental leave to 26 weeks by 2026. That’s some nice symmetry. 26 by 26, Deputy Speaker. I don’t know who thought of that: some clever person. But 26 weeks by 2026; further improvement going straight to giving that flexibility and that support for parents in the paid parental leave scheme.  

Our changes are good for parents, Mr Speaker. They’re good for kids. They’re good for employers, and they’re good for our economy. And these changes make a good scheme more suitable for a more modern Australia. We’ve evolved since 2011, and these changes are important in that context, so that families can make their own choices to suit their own family’s needs. That’s really, really important. And they can enjoy what I said was such an important time of their lives with the newborn, with their new baby, and they can decide how long they spend. And as I said, if it’s a second or third, mum might want to go back to work earlier than the year that she spent with the first born. But that’s their choice. And that’s the beauty of these changes. It’s really making sure that we give families a choice to decide for themselves what’s best for their circumstances and for their family. And that’s something that this government – the Labor Government, the Albanese Labor Government – has committed to deliver for Australian families. Thank you.