As our national broadcaster, the ABC plays an essential role in supporting a healthy democracy at home and showcasing the best of Australia abroad. This government has consistently undermined the sustainability and independence of the ABC, cutting its budget by more than half a billion dollars since 2014. As a result, we have lost some of the ABC’s flagship news and current affairs programs, as well as important international programming.
We need to invest in the ABC and the SBS and do more to encourage diversity in our media. This includes restoring the ABC’s budget, investing in its international platform, and protecting its editorial independence.
The arts industry gives enormous value to our society, enriching our lives and supporting more than 350,000 jobs. But it has been hit hard by COVID-19 and poorly supported by our government. As a result, many people in the sector are suffering.
We need to support our creative industries to bounce back. This includes restoring arms-length funding to the Australia Council to help re-build small and medium-sized organisations; implementing a meaningful quota for Australian screen content across all platforms; and making sure multinational tech giants pay their fair share of tax in Australia. We also need to enhance coordination in arts and cultural policy between different layers of government and look at ways to increase philanthropic funding for the arts in the long-term.
I also want to see our arts and cultural education re-built. This includes developing a National Cultural Strategy, as recommended by the House Committee on creative industries, and redressing the costs of Arts degrees which have been targeted by recent government policy.
We need to modernise our animal welfare laws to end live exports of sheep and cattle and improve the living conditions of farm-raised hens and pigs. This will alleviate the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals and restore Australia's damaged animal welfare reputation. As Wentworth’s representative, I will support the establishment of a national Animal Welfare Commission as recommended by the Productivity Commission to coordinate the development and implementation of national animal welfare standards and to provide independent science-based advice to Government.
The security of Australia is the highest priority for the Government and for the Parliament, and AUKUS is the largest single commitment ever made to develop our defence capabilities. While many of us would prefer to see money spent on domestic concerns, Allegra believes that in the current security environment we will need to make significant commitments in defence, while also strengthening our international relationships through economic, diplomatic, aid and other soft powers.
Based on briefings to date, Allegra believes that AUKUS is a positive step for Australia in terms of its defence. As an island nation, submarine power is extremely important, and nuclear-powered submarines present significant advantages over other types in terms of speed and ability to avoid detection. Australia has deep relations with the US and UK in defence and they are experts in submarine technology, so there is real value in partnering with them. This isn’t to ignore however the poor handling of our relationship with France in the development of AUKUS. Allegra had concerns about the potential obsolescence of manned-submarine technology in the future, but these have been partly allayed by discussions with defence experts.
There are 3 critical areas of the AUKUS program Allegra will be focusing on in the future:
- Australia must maintain its sovereignty over defence operations.
- AUKUS must be developed on budget and on time, and Australia must develop the resources and skills to command this complex new technology.
- All nuclear waste must be disposed of safely, securely and in a way that protects our natural environment.
Making AUKUS succeed will demand dedicated concentration from successive governments over the years, indeed decades, ahead. The stakes are high, in every respect, so the Parliament must ensure that it monitors the progress of these projects, because the governments who preside over AUKUS are accountable to the Parliament and the Australian people.
As the member for Wentworth, Allegra will continue to advocate for that accountability on your behalf.
Housing affordability is a real challenge for Wentworth and for the country as a whole. There are no easy answers – and we need to be conscious that Wentworth already has some of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia.
This is not an issue that can be quickly solved by renters just choosing to buy a house. It’s also not an issue that can be solved by loading more and more debt onto people when interest rates are rising.
Many decisions regarding housing policy are State issues, but I believe that the Federal government has a leadership role to play. In the short term, I support investigating the benefits of shared equity arrangements, which can make it easier for people to buy their first home. We should also consider whether the current level of Commonwealth Rental Assistance is appropriate for those most in need.
In the long term, I support looking at housing supply, including how the Federal government could support the construction of more social housing and more affordable housing in the private sector.
Why I voted against the IR Bill
2 December 2022
Allegra Spender MP today voted against the Government’s industrial relations Bill.
“I welcome many of the changes that became law today and hope they lead to meaningful improvements for low-wage workers. But I remain deeply concerned about multi-employer bargaining, and think Labor may simply have gone too far.
“The Bill has improved substantially since it was introduced, but still fails to strike the right balance. It may raise wages for some workers, but will hurt many small businesses and may lead to closures and job losses. The Government should be focused on reforms that empower businesses to grow, to pay higher wages, and to raise productivity.”
A key point of contention was the Government’s insistence on compulsory multi-employer bargaining. “Small businesses in my electorate have consistently raised their concerns about this change. I’ve conveyed that message to the Government and argued for voluntary participation, so I’m disappointed that the Government ignored their concerns.”
“Forcing businesses to bargain together is a backwards step. We don’t want businesses paying the same wages – we want them to compete for staff by offering better pay, benefits and conditions.”
Senator David Pocock secured a commitment from the Government to review the modern award system, which Allegra has consistently supported. But when she asked the Workplace Relations Minister about the review in Question Time on Wednesday November 30, 2022, the Minister failed to provide details about what would be covered by the review, its timeframe, or its independence.
“Awards set the minimum standards for two-thirds of Australian workers, but they are complex and hopelessly outdated. If we want to improve pay and conditions for workers, and make it simpler for businesses to hire, train and promote staff, we need to modernise the awards.
“Awards shouldn’t be so complex that a 15-year-old working their first job has to battle through 100 pages of legal jargon to figure out if they’re being paid the right amount. This is what the Government should focus on.”
I am very concerned about the mental health of Australians. The number of people seeking help has risen over the past two years, an increasing demand that poses significant challenges to our current services.
Younger Australians are among the hardest hit. Almost 19% of people aged 15 to 24 suffered anxiety and 14% had depression in 2020-21, according to the most recent National Health Survey.
While funding for mental health is growing, we need better coordination between governments and private/public providers to improve access and affordability. We also need to address the shortfall in training capacity for the next generation of clinical psychologists.
I support calls for more efficient local networks to provide better transparency around waiting times. During this Parliamentary term, I will be looking at options to trial a digital local network of mental health services in Wentworth to improve transparency and access to mental health services.
NDIS was a world-leading system when it was created and provides life-changing support for many Australians. However, we can’t pretend there are not serious problems - there are too many rogue suppliers; too many cases of participants seeing their support unjustly cut; and too much money being wasted by the NDIS.
We need a kind and compassionate system, shaped around the voices and needs of Australians with disabilities. We need more consistent decision-making, a less adversarial appeals process, and a reduction in red tape. I want to see full implementation of the ANAO’s recommendations on NDIS and a rapid review in the next parliament on how the current shortcomings can be quickly addressed.
National Security and Defence
Australia faces an increasingly complex strategic environment and I take our defence and national security very seriously. I fully support Australia's strong commitment to effective global cooperation, unity of intent and action in security and foreign relations with our international allies. I support the rules-based world order and the need to properly resource our defence forces to protect Australia and deter potential aggressors. I support developing Australia’s international relationships and agreements including ANZUS, AUKUS, and our participation in The Quad.
I will be a “critical friend” to the government, taking an evidence-based approach to policy decisions. As an independent, I consult extensively with defence, security and geo-political experts to support policies that are in the national interest and challenge those where legitimate questions arise. For example, I support reviewing our approach to diplomacy, soft power, foreign aid and foreign relations to ensure we are operating in a fully informed, considered and sophisticated way, alongside our allies.
We also need to heed the warnings of some of our formerly most senior defence personnel and take climate change seriously. This government’s policy has cost us in the Pacific, it makes us dependent on foreign fuel, and it is diminishing our place on the world stage.