House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

12:29 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | Hansard source

( As we get closer to Christmas, Australians of all persuasions are relying on the coronavirus supplement for certainty. They need some form of certainty and support from the government, not a cruel cut. That's why Labor's seeking to amend this bill, the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Coronavirus and Other Measures) Bill 2020, to ensure that the coronavirus supplement is extended until March next year, in line with JobKeeper, and to require the government to announce a permanent increase in the JobSeeker payment.

Many organisations have come out in support of a permanent increase in JobSeeker. Quite simply, you can't live off the old rate of JobSeeker, which roughly equated to about $40 a day. If you speak to someone that has had to try and survive on this measly payment, you find that it basically means that they find it extremely difficult to actually look for work, because most of their time is devoted to making ends meet and looking after family members, particularly if they're single parents. So it's the worst time for the government to be cutting support for people who've lost their jobs, whilst unemployment is still going up.

The Department of Social Services has told Senate estimates that the number of people on unemployment payments will surge to 1.8 million by December, an increase of 300,000 over previous projections. 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, with DSS projecting the average number to be 1.3 million in 2021, a million in 2022 and 900,000 in 2023-24. We know that the increase in unemployment comes as the Morrison government's been caught out inflating jobs figures associated with budget measures by nearly one million jobs. The Prime Minister's big promise on jobs, the so-called JobMaker, hasn't even lasted until the end of budget month. We know from the Treasury department that, out of the claimed 450,000 places, the hiring credit is only expected to support and create 45,000 new jobs. Out of the claimed 130,000 jobs from its technology road map, none are included in the budget. And, out of the claimed 80,000 direct and 300,000 indirect jobs from its manufacturing announcement, none are included in the budget.

It's the deepest and most damaging recession in almost a century, and the Australian people deserve a government that creates jobs, not just headlines. This government has form when it comes to big announcements and all of the associated fanfare, but, 12 months after a program's been announced, we find out it hasn't delivered one job. There are a litany of programs across previous budgets delivered by this government where that is the case. They're all about the spin, all about the announcement, nothing about the follow-up.

The recent Anglicare Australian Jobs Availability Snapshot shows just how bleak the employment prospects are for many jobseekers, particularly with the government's underwhelming response to this recession. The report reveals more than 100 jobseekers are competing for every low skilled job vacancy across the nation. Many of the jobseekers in the jobs snapshot are older Australians, yet the government's Restart program, which it touts as its signature policy for the over-50s, has been an utter failure in getting older people back to work. Not only is it unsubscribed; 40 per cent of the workers under this program were out of work within three months.

If the Morrison government were serious about driving down the unemployment rate and kickstarting the recovery, it would not be excluding almost a million Australians over the age of 35 on unemployment payments from the new multibillion dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme. These Australians are rapidly approaching the JobSeeker Christmas cliff, with no certainty about the future of their support payments and how they'll find themselves competing with a subsidised younger workforce.

The Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, has announced that a Labor government will train thousands of workers, and our next generation of tradies will come through our jobs and skills guarantee. We will build and manufacture in Australia through our National Rail Manufacturing Plan. We will cut childcare fees and put more money into the pockets of working families. We've called on the government to do more, right now, to create work for thousands of tradies in almost every suburb and town across the country by investing in projects that fast-track urgent repairs to social housing. I visited several social housing tenants in properties in the electorate that I represent, and many of those properties are in dire need of repair, and urgently. This is a program via which the government could provide support for tradies in every suburb and every town across the country. It could make sure they have the opportunity to work to provide much-needed upgrades to public assets—public infrastructure that provides people with a roof over their head and helps deal with problems in our society such as homelessness and couch surfing.

In the depths of this crisis, when the country needs a jobs plan, when the private sector is withdrawing investment and support for projects, when the country needs the support of government to fix some of the social issues we have, this government is sadly lacking. We have another grab bag of announcements and spin without any follow up-through policy that provides real support for jobs for people in this country.

Decisions taken by the coalition mean that this recession will be deeper and longer than it has to be; that it will push more workers into the unemployment queues and jeopardise Australia's recovery. That, unfortunately, will be the hallmark of this government and a great shame for generations to come.


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