House debates

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Statements by Members

COVID-19: Employment

1:39 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor supported the introduction of JobKeeper not because it was perfect but because it was absolutely crucial. We all witnessed the queues snaking around our communities. I'm next to a Centrelink, and for days people just stood patiently in that line, occasionally knocking on my office door—because we had to close it due to COVID—and certainly ringing us. It has been an incredible time, and seeing those people queuing is something that I think none of us ever thought we would see. My father used to tell me stories about the divvy lines in the Depression. I'm sure that if he were alive today he would have been so sad to see those lines.

JobKeeper is far from perfect, and my office has been flooded with calls from people—employers and employees—who are very confused. Some are casuals, like Melissa's daughter, who was hired as a casual beautician on 2 March last year. She missed out by one arbitrary day. Sole traders have been falling through the cracks. They feel forgotten. Angela from my electorate has had a really tough year. The summer bushfires pretty much wiped out her photography business, and she got a permanent part-time job. Then COVID absolutely killed her business, and she found out from the ATO that she couldn't get JobKeeper because of her one-day-a-week job. Times are tough. We really need to keep our eye on the ball with this. (Time expired)

1:41 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've often heard, over recent weeks, the phrase 'We are all in this together' but the reality is that that is not true. There is a substantial minority of the Australian population who are bearing the full brunt of the restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 crisis. That small minority are bearing the hardship for us all. So, with that, I call on our state governments, our premiers, to lift the restrictions as soon as they can. As to any restriction that remains in place, it must be backed by full medical reasons; otherwise it should be lifted to get people back to work.

We cannot take the attitude of saying we will wait until things are safe, because that means never. We cannot have 100 per cent safety, and often the pain and suffering and ill effects on health from the lockdowns can be worse than the virus itself. Now is the time to get Australians back to work. We've already had a 20 per cent decline in the hours worked. That is far too much. So I call on our state premiers: lift the restrictions and allow Australians to get back to work.