Peter Khalil: If there was ever a better example of a government overpromising and underdelivering, I’d like to know, because the fact is that the Morrison government is all talk and no walk. It’s all credit taking and no responsibility taking. It’s all photo op and no follow-up. The member for Watson mentioned this government’s propensity for marketing. It’s as if we’ve been stuck in a perpetual marketing conference for seven years. We’ve had Mad Men on reruns for seven years. It would be laughable if it were not for the serious and terrible impacts on Australian lives because of their abject failure to deliver on their empty announcements.
The Prime Minister takes all the credit for the good work of state premiers and territory chief ministers through the national cabinet, but, when the heat is on and mistakes are made, he goes into hiding or, worse, takes a swipe at them. He’s made all these promises. He’s announced this program and that program. There are all these announcements coming, but in the end the effect is that people are always left behind. People are always left out. Workers are left behind. Businesses are left behind.
Just on the JobKeeper, they said they would support six million Australians. The real figure was three million. They said they would inject $130 billion into the economy. Then they revealed the stuff-up of the $60 billion shortfall, the biggest budget error in Australian history. They say they’ve injected $314 billion worth of stimulus into the economy, but how much have they actually spent? A fraction of that number.
Small businesses are so important to our economic activity. They contribute to over a third of our economic activity, keeping millions of Australians in jobs, and they are responsible for paying wages to more than half of our workforce. Not enough is being done to support small businesses who need it most. The Morrison government has had this lack of urgency. It has left gaps in support and has not gone far enough in protecting small businesses. Labor called for a wage subsidy at the start of this pandemic, and Prime Minister Morrison resisted these calls, saying that it would be too technically difficult to implement, only to be dragged kicking and screaming to that decision by the union movement, by Labor, by the premiers and presumably by watching Prime Minister Johnson put a wage subsidy in place in the UK. He announced it a few weeks later.
The effect of this delay is that support for small businesses came too late, and too many otherwise viable businesses have found themselves on the brink of collapse. We have heard from sole traders. They cannot qualify for the federal government’s cash flow boost. The cash flow boost is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, and it goes only to those businesses employing people. Sole traders are left out. Small businesses rely on casual workers. They have been left out—over a million Australians who are casual workers. This has hit small businesses hard. I’ve heard from local businesses in my electorate of Wills about how much this has hurt them. We’re all doing our bit to support small businesses across Australia. The government needs fewer empty announcements and more substance for small businesses.
Even in the arts, we’ve seen the emptiness of the announcements—standing alongside some pop singer or whatever and announcing $250 million in funding for the arts. It took the government a hundred days to do something, because they stubbornly insisted there was no problem. Of course, that package itself is partly made up of commercial-level loans. They made a separate announcement for the screen sector, and it turned out that even the production company that they used for that announcement wasn’t eligible for funding. So the PM stages a photo op and then even fails to actually deliver for the people that he used in his own photo op. It’s remarkable.
To quote the great man former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Prime Minister Morrison is all tip and no iceberg. This government is all smoke and mirrors, hoping that Australians won’t notice the shallowness of the photo ops and the shallowness of the empty announcements, hoping that Australians won’t figure it out. But they will. They will catch up with you, Prime Minister, because Australians can smell a fake a mile away.