House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Ministerial Statements

Covid-19

10:48 am

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Morning Speaker and colleagues. As you know, we are in unprecedented times and the responses to deal with the coronavirus require unprecedented effort. We are only going to achieve this by working together. I just want to reflect a little on the contribution from the member for Petrie. It is something we need to learn from the way we approach this coronavirus. It is not just a matter of defeating this virus; we need to actually make sure that we set the platform so that we can address challenges like this into the future and ensure Australia's continued viability.

We must remember that we've got to stay focused on our national interests. We've got to stay focused on the welfare of Australian people. It is not just about addressing the coronavirus; it is about ensuring the ongoing development of our economy and hence why we have supported the government in the various markets they've laid down in the administration of stimulus packages.

I think it's reasonable to say that what has plagued the nation are the levels of uncertainty. They certainly affect the health and the livelihoods of all those we hold dear. I see it in my own family where they have been laid off work, where work has slowed up and where businesses are now having to make various amendments to the way they're doing business or trying to do business. We supported, for that very reason, the JobKeeper package. I know there are various issues that flow from it—if you're a university student working one shift, getting paid $50 per shift a week, you qualified for the $1,500 a fortnight as part of JobKeeper; whereas if you were actually a university lecturer who's been laid off by the university, you got nothing. There are issues associated with that, and the member for Petrie, I think, is right: we must show more flexibility. But the flexibility wasn't being shown at that point. I think we've got to realise there are issues in the system that can be improved, and simply because it's been advanced by the opposition doesn't mean the government needs to turn a blind eye to it.

We are not unfamiliar with the issue of stimulus packages to meet economic challenges. You recall in the global financial crisis of 2008, we received advice—probably similar advice that the government has received from Treasury—that we needed to go hard, go fast, go early. On this occasion, I give credit to the government: they have moved in that direction. When Labor moved in that direction in 2008 and 2009, do you realise how many late-night sittings we had in this place? Every piece of legislation giving effect to stimulus packages was opposed outright on every occasion. The then opposition moved to frustrate every aspect of stimulus packages. By the way, they've dined out on that ever since. The issue about debt and deficit has become almost a catchcry for those opposite.

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