04 February 2021


As we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic the challenges we face are great, and there is the big question: How do we recover in a way which acknowledges that behaviours have changed and, accordingly, so too must the policy settings? It's not good enough for us to assume things will go entirely back to the way they were, because they simply won't. Analysis from Infrastructure Australia's report Infrastructure beyond COVID-19 shows that, unsurprisingly, the pandemic has changed work patterns, with more people working from home and regional centres. Interestingly, there has also been a 200 per cent increase in net migration from capital cities to outer metropolitan areas. While I welcome the fact that more Australians are appreciating the value of outer metropolitan communities like mine, given they are such great places to live, work and raise a family, we do need to be honest in our assessment that without appropriate infrastructure investment the quality of life for residents will rapidly deteriorate. For example, the pandemic has seen a considerable increase in the registration of secondary cars, which is up by 35 per cent, linked at least in part, no doubt, to directions to avoid public transport if possible. Coupled with the view that areas like Greenway are desirable for growing families, an increase of this kind will cripple many suburban roads that were never intended to support heavy traffic. That's why projects like upgrades to Bandon Road in Riverstone are so essential. They mean less time on the roads for local commuters, more time with loved ones and jobs in our local community, so they are an all-round winning scenario.

But we also need to acknowledge that the economic uncertainty and pain caused by this pandemic will not end simply with the rollout of the vaccine. Without JobKeeper the unemployment rate at the height of the pandemic would have been close to 12 per cent, with youth unemployment certainly much higher. Wage subsidies have been essential in weathering this storm, but turning them off too early could have a detrimental impact on consumer confidence and economic activity. The feedback I'm receiving as a local member is that the jobs that are returning are increasingly insecure and casualised. I was speaking on the phone just yesterday to a young woman from Quakers Hill in her late 20s. I could hear the sheer despair in her voice as she was telling me about how she worked in the gig economy as a delivery driver. Before the pandemic hit she was looking at starting her own business. In her words, the pandemic has simply destroyed her. The utter desperation in her voice was palpable.

This government isn't helping, with its proposed industrial relations changes. My colleagues in Labor and I have set a very simple test. We will only support industrial relations changes if they deliver secure jobs with decent pay. The Prime Minister's industrial relations brainchild fails that test. Hence, we will fight it every step of the way. The fact is this Prime Minister has a bill before the parliament to cut your pay.