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

No, you won't hear a jot of that any longer, Member for Werriwa, because they now know what it's like to be in government when you have to address the hard decisions. But it's a lesson that they've only just learnt, or should have learnt. Just a few months back—this year, in fact—addressing the Business Council of Australia, the Prime Minister described Labor's approach to the global financial crisis as 'wasteful' and 'ill disciplined'. That's a direct quote. A month before that, the current Treasurer was reflecting on Labor's approach to the GFC when he said that Labor were 'panic merchants' and 'economic neophytes'. I had to go and look up what 'neophytes' means, and it means people who are new to a situation. Boy, have they become new to a situation over recent times! Let's go back to the 2013 election. What was one of the core issues there, apart from issue of debt and deficit? They wanted a royal commission into what they called the Pink Batts fiasco. The first thing that Tony Abbott did when he formed government in 2013 was exactly that. He made good on his promise to the community—a royal commission into the stimulus packages and roof insulation. I haven't heard those opposite say anything about a royal commission into the Ruby Princess yet—not a word, nothing about the fact that it accounts for more than 200 cases of the coronavirus in our community and, regrettably, over 20 deaths. By their own standard—provided they don't want to be tarred as hypocrites—wouldn't you think they'd have something to say about that?

By the way, I think Gladys Berejiklian is doing a very good job. I know there is a police investigation occurring into the Ruby Princess. She ensured that there would be a judicial inquiry into this. She is a person who has shown leadership. As a matter of fact, I commend all those who serve on the national cabinet, because I think what we are seeing from them as a group is national leadership.

Having said all that, I want to talk about the jobseeker payment. It is going to be very important to us. I cannot see that, as a community, in six months, on the designated date, this is going to be halved. That would cause sheer devastation across all communities. And we still need to look at wage subsidies, because businesses are not going to just snap back on that six-month date set in the initial legislation. It's clear to me that, despite the government's predetermined date for the subsidies to conclude, businesses, jobs, households and the economy are not going to automatically snap back. We need to make sure that we are investing in the future of this country, and that's not just the future that extends to what we do in six months or to the next election. We need a long-term commitment now to ensure the viability of our industries, to ensure they can re-establish themselves, employ Australian workers and get out and compete on the international scale, supporting our economy. It is going to take a lot of heavy lifting, for generations, by whoever is in government. This will not stop at the next election or the one after that. This is going to take a significant commitment.

There is one other thing I'd like to raise in the short time I have left. Deputy Speaker, you've heard me say on many occasions that my electorate is very multicultural. As a matter of fact, I probably receive, with the member for Werriwa, the majority of refugees that come into this country. There are many refugees currently living in our communities supported by charities like St Vincent de Paul, Food Angel, Inspire Church and other groups because they are getting nothing and yet, like everyone else, they are trying to survive. It reflects badly on us, because these people can't be sent somewhere else. They're here. They're human beings. We must look after them as well.

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