Wednesday, 8 April 2020
Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Bill 2020, Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No. 2) Bill 2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2019-2020; Consideration in Detail
I thank the member for his contribution on the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Bill 2020 and related bills. We don't agree, and won't be agreeing, to these amendments.
In relation to the member's first comments on the structure of the scheme: yes, the scheme is structured, of course, to provide a wage guarantee and to support the six million Australians who we believe are ultimately going to access the JobKeeper payments. But, importantly, it is also there to ensure that the businesses which employ them are there in six months time in order to continue to employ them. I think that looking at that structure answers some of the questions and some of the points that the member has made, particularly in relation to leave entitlements. It's a vexed and complex issue, but I think the work that has been done by the responsible minister in particular in negotiating a number of these arrangements addresses the primary concerns. But, at the same time, it's in the framework in recognition that, ultimately, in addition to supporting the employees we're also supporting the liabilities, at times, of employers to make sure that they're there in however long it takes to get through this crisis—that they are there on the other side to continue to employ them.
In relation to casuals, which the member raised: the Prime Minister made it very clear—and I think put it very well in question time—that the jobseeker scheme builds upon the earlier tranches of economic support that the government provided, most notably the jobseeker payment. Jobseeker payment recognised that there would be those who, through no fault of their own, lost their job. That's why, through the coronavirus supplement of an additional $550 a fortnight, that additional support is available to them.
The JobKeeper payment, as the Treasurer has described, is a uniquely Australian designed scheme within the broad framework of a wage subsidy. No-one was talking about this extending all the way to casuals a few weeks ago. We made it very clear that we wanted this to be as expansive as possible: a six-month payment at 70 per cent of median wages that extends to part-time and long-term casuals—and we've drawn on definitions that are well understood within industrial relations law with respect to the definition of casuals. So the JobKeeper scheme appropriately recognises that. That is wide in its remit and, for those employees or former employees who can't access JobKeeper, this just builds upon the increased safety net that this government has provided through the jobseeker payment.
In relation to charities and not-for-profits, which were mentioned by the member for Watson: again, the government has recognised the enormous contribution that charities and not-for-profits play in our country, and the some one million employees who work in that sector. We're very keen to extend this to charities and to not-for-profits. I would note that there are provisions in the bill which ensure for entities which are deductible gift recipients that donations are taken into account for the purposes of the turnover test, to make sure that those entities which rely heavily on donations are able to get access to the JobKeeper scheme for their employees because of what we expect is going to be the inevitable drop-off in donations to those types of entities.
So we have an expansive scheme and it addresses a number of the points that the member for Watson has raised, and for those reasons we don't support his amendments.