House debates

Monday, 23 March 2020


Days and Hours of Meeting

6:58 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you for the opportunity to add to the compelling points made by the member for Melbourne and also especially those made by the member for Watson before him. Clearly the idea that we know now that the parliament won't need to sit until August is absurd. When you think about the rapidly evolving nature of this health crisis, when you think about the rapidly deteriorating economy, which is coming as a consequence of that diabolical challenge to our health system, to think that we won't need to agree new measures or we won't need to, as the member for Melbourne said, scrutinise the measures which were only announced yesterday and legislated today, the idea that the government has just perfectly nailed every aspect of this $66 billion in new spending is absurd.

As others have pointed out, it would be one thing if the government came to us and said, 'On the basis of health advice'—or some other reason—'we think that the parliament shouldn't sit on a rolling fortnightly basis,' but the idea that we can just assume that the parliament need not sit until August just doesn't make sense. If those opposite can say to us that they have every aspect of this package right or that they know, in every way, how this economic crisis is going to unfold, that's another thing. But they can't do that, for obvious and understandable reasons.

The other point I wanted to make is that it's not the Labor Party on its own that is saying that there will be more that will need to be done. Yesterday, before the government even released its second package of stimulus, the finance minister was on early morning TV saying, 'We will need a third wave of stimulus.' By the time the Treasurer and the Prime Minister stood up in the Prime Minister's courtyard later that day, they weren't just talking about a third wave of stimulus but a fourth and a fifth and subsequent waves of stimulus. We've made our views on that well known—that we also think that additional support will be necessary. If we know now that that additional support is necessary, then let's get cracking on it. The parliament will not be sitting for much longer in this session. So if there are to be subsequent waves of stimulus, for good, well-founded reasons—that the economy deteriorates further and that more lives and livelihoods are destroyed—then we need to have the capacity for the parliament to sit and agree, as we have today, on the necessary measures to support the economy and to support people, in particular, in that deteriorating economy. So, for all of the reasons that the member for Watson identified and all of the reasons that the member for Melbourne identified, it makes no sense for us not to sit until August in terms of the economic considerations.

There will be problems with what the government has proposed. From the announcement of the package until the passage through this place, it has only been 27 or 28 hours. There was $66 billion outlaid, plus the original $17 billion. So $83 billion of taxpayer money was outlaid with very little notice. We've done our best to work through the legislation that we were provided and we've done our best to come to a good, sound judgement on that legislation. We support it and we want to get it out the door as soon as possible. But the idea that there is nothing in there that might need to be fixed or tweaked doesn't make a lot of sense to us.

The economy is in serious strife, for all of the reasons that we in this place know and have spent today talking about. As a democracy, as the people's house of the Australian parliament, we need to give ourselves the capacity to do more and to fix, improve and tweak what has already been done. If we agree here that we are not going to sit until August, we rob ourselves of that opportunity to do the right thing by the people who sent us here.


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