House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Employment

4:08 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have never been more proud to be a northsider or to be the person elected to represent northsiders here in the federal parliament. In the words of the great Bruce Springsteen, 'We take care of our own.' I only wish that I had the time in the chamber today to acknowledge and pay tribute to all the acts of kindness that have been bestowed upon others across the northside during the past couple of months. But I am here as the voice of the people of Lilley, and they have sent me here with messages for the parliament. On today's topic, I will talk about the messages of improvement that they want to see in the JobKeeper package.

The Treasurer bestowed upon himself great ministerial power. He gave himself discretion to amend the JobKeeper package where issues with the scheme were exposed. I call upon the Treasurer to demonstrate some humility and now attend to that work with us in the parliament here this week. He needs to do that because there are people falling through the cracks and there are people who are being treated unfairly by this scheme—people like Steve, who lives in McDowall.

Steve has worked for Q Catering for 22 years. For most of that time, Steve has worked for Q Catering under the ultimate employer of Qantas. In 2018, Qantas sold Q Catering to dnata. Steve had no hand in that. Steve played no part in that. This government played a part in that; they signed off on the sale. But now Steve finds himself hung out to dry by that same government because he is not eligible for JobKeeper. He was stood down on 30 March. He was told he'd be stood down for three months, but not to worry because JobKeeper was coming. Last week Steve was told that actually, no, that same government who approved the sale, that same government who had a hand in the change of his employer was now denying him any support. People like Steve deserve an awful lot better than what they're getting from this Treasurer at the moment.

We need to step in and amend JobKeeper for people like Paul and Simone. Paul and Simone opened up a cafe and wellness centre in Brighton in the past 12 months. They poured their heart, their savings and their time into setting up this new business. They employed three local casual workers. As the weeks have gone on, times have got tougher. They've had to sack those three local workers. They are not eligible for JobKeeper because of the criteria. Despite doing absolutely everything that this government seeks of people—small business people having a go—they are now facing the very real prospect of handing the keys back to the bank. What about people like Paul and Simone?

People like Kylie from Sandgate deserve better than what they are receiving from the Treasurer at the moment. Kylie is a relief teacher. She teaches at St Pat's up at Shorncliffe. Kylie was stood down on 27 March and has not received any further bookings as a relief teacher. She's not eligible for JobKeeper; she's a casual worker. At a time when we are talking about the role of teachers and how important their work is in our community, relief teachers like Kylie have been hung out to dry by this government.

Last week, I had a community Zoom with people in the arts industry along with our shadow arts minister, Tony Burke. We've got a thriving hub in Lilley, but we also have 92,000 Queenslanders whose livelihoods depend upon the arts industry. They contribute $111 billion to our economy, and do you know what they got from this government? $27 million. The entire arts industry got $27 million from this government. They've been completely hung out to dry, yet day after day this week we've heard what a great job everybody in the government has been doing and how JobKeeper needs no further amendment. Why are we all here if not to do what the Treasurer gave himself the power to do and amend the package to improve the fairness of the scheme?

Last night I spoke with community organisations on another community Zoom. These are the people who have been keeping our vulnerable alive in the past couple of months. These are the people who are feeding meals to our most vulnerable, meal by meal. They've been keeping people off the streets. They've been giving them showers and then wiping them down themselves. And you know what they had to ask last night? They said: 'Anika, what is happening with JobKeeper? We're reading that there are backbenchers wanting the scheme closed early. We were told this money was granted until September. It's not even enough money to get us to September, and now we're hearing that it might not even last until then.' We should be working together to improve the inherent fairness of the scheme. Why recall parliament and spend all of the taxpayer money needed to do this if you will not listen to the people of our electorates, if you will not hear the unfairness of the scheme, if you will not acknowledge the people who are falling through the cracks and step in and fix it? We have time yet to do it today. The Treasurer should come into the chamber and fix it now.

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