Canberra Doorstop 10/09/19

September 09, 2019

SUBJECTS: QLD-NSW bushfires; Liberals distracting from floundering economy; Welfare recipient drug testing.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER:  First of all I wanted to say something about the bushfires in northern New South Wales and in my home state of Queensland. Something like 70 different fires now burning throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales.  I want to acknowledge the amazing work of the first responders, particularly the firies but also all of the communities who are getting around each other, making sure that people have somewhere to sleep, somewhere to eat, as they go through what must be just an extraordinarily traumatising and distressing and often heartbreaking thing which is to see the homes that they built, the homes that they live in and love affected by these fires right around two states.

Many of us Queenslanders have spent time, particularly as kids, around Binna Burra. Many of us have spent time at Peregian Beach, swum at at Peregian Beach, maybe had a beer or fish and chips at the Peregian Beach Hotel. These communities are really important communities full of terrific people going through a very hard time right now. Our heart goes out to them. Our support goes out to them as well, and our appreciation goes out to the first responders and especially the firies who are doing what is ultimately the most selfless act of all which just putting themselves in harm's way to protect other people and to protect their property.

Now in this parliamentary week we've seen a number of Bills either presented or about to be presented by the Morrison Government. All of these bills are designed as a distraction from the Government's failures on the economy. None of these bills will create a single job or turn around an economy which is floundering on the Liberals' watch. We question Scott Morrison's motives here. It's not about trying to help people, it's about trying to demonise people. It's not about chasing solutions, it's about chasing headlines. It's not about turning the economy around, it's about chasing cheap headlines in the newspapers.

We call on the Morrison Government to come up with a plan to turn around the economy which is floundering on his watch. The Prime Minister himself has boasted that he spends his time cooking up tests for the Labor Party. When Australians need a Prime Minister 100 per cent focussed on jobs and the economy, instead they've got this bloke 100 per cent focussed on playing silly political games in Canberra.

No wonder the economy is growing at its slowest rate for a decade. No wonder wages are stagnant, living standards and productivity are going backwards, household debt is at record highs. No matter how hard Australians work they feel like they just can't get ahead. Australians are facing the rising costs of electricity, child care, private health insurance, and they're having to deal with that despite historically low, stagnant wages growth. The Prime Minister of this country needs to get himself out of the Canberra bubble, out of playing silly political games and setting tests for the Labor Party, and actually come with a plan to turn around an economy which is floundering on his watch.

Over to you.

JOURNALIST: Just in relation to that welfare testing, the Government's now said that they'll put in $65,000 in order to help rehabilitate people who fail those tests. Is that, is that a genuine offer or is that just in order to get Lambie on side?

CHALMERS: This Bill is a distraction from the Government's failures on the economy and it won't create a single job or turn the economy around. The Government is not about helping people, they're about demonising people. All this talk about rehabilitation and the commitments that they're making there are secondary to their primary political goal which is to pick a fight with the Labor Party.

The Prime Minister last night on 7:30 said that he couldn't understand why people were resisting these drug testing trials. I mean, how out of touch can this guy be? It might be a 60 year old trying to get back in the workforce for a long time, maybe having lost your job as a 50 year old. The Prime Minister now wants you to pee in a cup in a demeaning way as a part of his picking fights with the Labor Party. I mean this is - what he's proposing here hasn't worked overseas. It won't work here. It is indiscriminate. It's ineffective. It unnecessarily demeans people when they're trying to get back in the workforce and the health experts, the law and order experts, experts right across the board, have criticised this approach.

That's why I question the Government's motives here, its motivations. This, for the Government, is not about getting people off drugs, or off welfare into work; it's about chasing headlines, it's about picking fights with the Labor Party and I think people who are unemployed in this country deserve a Government which actually cares about getting them into work, and prioritises that over these kind of political games.

Thank you.