Thursday, 29 October 2020
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading
A lot of big figures have been thrown around in the last few months—billions of dollars of support and a trillion-dollar debt—but it is grave news indeed, and I want to let all of our fellow Australians who are listening this morning know, that as of yesterday we found out that there will be 1.8 million Australians on unemployment payments by Christmas. Under this coalition federal government, we've seen a situation whereby an extraordinary number of Australians will be unemployed and needing that social support. We have seen the new Department of Social Services' figures come out of Senate estimates that show the number of people on unemployment payments will increase by many hundreds of thousands and will indeed surge to about 1.8 million by December. My colleague Senator Katy Gallagher, the shadow minister for finance, confirmed this in a question to a DSS official in Senate estimates. At estimates, it was also confirmed that the number of people forced to get by on unemployment benefits will be higher in 2024 than it was before the recession. That is no nowhere near a snapback in terms of getting Australians back into jobs—and this is what we feared.
The member for Barton and shadow minister for social services said: 'These revised figures show this job crisis is getting worse and the government's planned Christmas JobSeeker cut will hurt 1.8 million Australians. Unemployment is painful and unfair. Hundreds of thousands of Australians will bear the impact of this recession for years to come. The Prime Minister needs to show compassion by announcing a permanent increase to the JobSeeker payment.' I wholeheartedly agree with the member for Barton. The budget was a missed opportunity to permanently increase JobSeeker. With up to 160,000 Australians expected to lose their jobs and 1.6 million Australians on JobSeeker, the government missed a massive opportunity to deliver certainty for Australians doing it tough by delivering a permanent increase to JobSeeker in the budget. With more jobseekers for each job vacancy, there are simply not enough jobs for everyone who needs one. Unlike what the Prime Minister is fond of saying, it is not a case of 'if you're good at your job you'll get a job'; there simply aren't enough jobs. To not be able to see that is, unfortunately, a dereliction of duty and a failure of leadership.
It is particularly difficult in our regions, where the job market is worse than in the cities. In the major cities you have the benefit of large populations. As businesses and the economy open up, there will be employment. It will still be difficult for some cohorts, but there will be employment. In the regions we want to see more support. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an understanding of the correlation between cutting JobSeeker and the effect on small businesses. ACOSS have published a report that talks about the massive benefit to the economy of this indirect stimulus. As I've been saying for months now, as far as the Territory is concerned, the people that I represent from Darwin and Palmerston, the business owners as well as the employees—in particular, the unemployed; and those numbers continue to rise—it is exactly the wrong time to be cutting back on this indirect stimulus to our economy.
The fact that the government doesn't even know how many jobs will be lost when unemployment payments are cut at Christmas time is a concern. We cannot close our minds and our hearts to the suffering of those who are doing it tough. Also, it is going to be a massive benefit to businesses in our economy if we do this in a sensible way. What we need to be doing is giving a permanent increase to JobSeeker so that those who are unemployed, some for the first time in their lives, have some certainty going into Christmas. I certainly hope that is the case.