14 May 2020

Various forecasts are estimating that unemployment is set to exceed 10 per cent of the workforce by June this year, and even the Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that it will remain persistently high over the next few years. For the communities that I represent, this means somewhere in the order of 12½ thousand people potentially losing their jobs. We welcome the fact that the government has picked up Labor's suggestion of a wage subsidy program, although we note that it is set to conclude by September-October this year. Economic recovery is likely to be slow, and it won't happen automatically. We need assistance from the Commonwealth government, and the Commonwealth working hand-in-hand with the state governments, local governments and local businesses, to get the economy and employment moving again. I have asked local governments and development authorities in my region to bring forward proposals which will assist in this task. Normally, when we do this, the big projects—projects that we have been talking about in our region for some time—are proposed.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

As I was saying, when we normally go to bodies and ask for ideas for stimulus programs, the big projects come forward. I encourage them to still think about the big projects, such as the Maldon-Dombarton rail link, the Picton Road and off ramps on the highway—these are all important projects—but I'd also like them to think of things that aren't as lumpy and that are going to be able to be brought forward quickly to give that employment stimulus where it's needed.

I'd like to propose two areas that warrant attention. The first is social housing. Even before the crisis, we had an issue with homelessness and we had an issue with affordable housing. Let's use this as an opportunity to inject investment into social housing opportunities, creating stimulus to the building and construction sector, but also providing a roof over the heads for people in need.

The second area that I'd like to propose is a widespread pest eradication project. In the Illawarra, particularly along the escarpment, for decades we have had a big problem with feral deer encroaching on urban areas, creating traffic hazards and creating problems with the rolling stock on the trains. Let's not let a crisis go to waste. I'd like to see some proposals come forward that enable us to upscale our pest eradication program and focus on something which has been a big problem throughout the national park throughout the Illawarra and Southern Highlands for decades. I'd encourage our local state authorities to work on a program that we could propose to the federal government. I'll be very happy to advocate for it in this place. Let's ensure that we can do something about a longstanding problem during this crisis.