House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Employment

4:02 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to refute this matter of public importance that the opposition has put—that we have not put jobs at the centre of our economy. The $130 billion JobKeeper program is unbelievably unprecedented and unique. I can't emphasise enough how their argument is absolutely flawed. For the whole of Australia this has been an unbelievably positive program going forward. That's not to say that there are not aspects of it such that some people may miss out. But we haven't just provided a JobKeeper lifeline; we've also provided a JobSeeker lifeline. So, we are now looking at supporting almost 50 per cent of the adult working population. That is unbelievable, and it is because we have recognised two clear crises.

There are people in this parliament who have thought and argued strongly that we should only be looking at this as a health crisis. It has been very clear that this government has had both aspects of this crisis clearly front and centre from the very start. If you look at the messages that have come through very clearly from the Prime Minister, they have been about a bipartisan approach. Firstly, forming the National Cabinet: I think Australians around the country have been thrilled by the bipartisan support of the federal, state and territory governments working together. Secondly, we've been very clear that the health of all Australians comes first, and we have been very clear about making sure that we have done the most that we can to flatten the curve and prepare our healthcare system. But equally, at the same time and at speed, we have managed to put together an amazing package that is the envy of the world—I'm really sorry, I just have to say that. I've spoken to colleagues around the world. Our package is unique and clever in its construction, and that is because it has put a Liberal philosophy at its very heart. We understand the strong economic approach—that business is at the heart of our economy.

Small businesses, medium-sized businesses and large businesses are the heartbeat of the Australian economy. By providing JobKeeper to businesses to soften the blow and to allow them to support their employees, it has meant that we have provided the dignity of work to Australians. Six million Australians are being supported by JobKeeper—six million people who may otherwise not have had that support have been supported, and 800,000 businesses are now able to continue to provide support and dignity to an amazing number of people in this country. That is not something to be sneezed at.

On top of that, by providing that support to these businesses for their employees, it means that they can therefore be more generous to those who may not meet that JobKeeper criterion, if they do fall through the jobseeker category. So we've got to remember that we have provided this massive amount of support. It is unprecedented in our history, and it is the right solution at the right time. It is a temporary measure to cushion the economy and get us to the other side. It is truly a Liberal philosophy that has taken us to this point. I have to say, the response from the community has been extraordinary.

In the electorate of Higgins, which I am the member for, I've had dozens if not hundreds of emails about JobKeeper and how enthusiastic people are in supporting JobKeeper—I've had retailers, I've had cafes and restaurants, I've had financial services and I've had new businesses that have just started up in the last three or four years who've been faced with closing their doors. I've had letters from people saying that they were expecting to shed 80 per cent of their jobs in the early weeks of February. They were so amazingly relieved that we had offered them this support so that they could keep their businesses going so we can be ready on the other side to get to a new COVID response where Australians can pick up and move forward.

I would like to really congratulate the very proactive response that our government has taken to develop the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, headed by Mr Neville Power. We are already on the front foot, prepared and ready to go forward as Australians together with businesses, with employers and with employees to get to a COVID-safe world on the other side.


No comments