Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for his question. I thank all of his constituents and the constituents of all members of this House for the way that they have banded together in what is such a difficult time: almost 600,000 jobs lost in April. This is devastating news, but, sadly, not news that was unanticipated. Importantly, when we set out to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, as a government we called the pandemic before the WHO. We acted on the advice of the medical experts to list this as a virus of pandemic potential and then activated the response plan. We knew that we had to fight this fight on the health front. But we also knew, at exactly the same time, that this was a fight that had to be fought on two fronts: on the economy, and on the health front.
Not all agreed with us on that point. Some believed that we should focus primarily on health. But we always believed that we had to ensure that we would deal with this issue on the economic front as well as the health front—and indeed we did. So we moved through three substantial successive packages, working in concert with the Reserve Bank of Australia to ensure that we could put in place a platform that would support Australians through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I said at this dispatch box that 2020 would be the toughest year of their lives for so many Australians. That is proving to be true today, as we have seen this first set of numbers when it comes to unemployment. We anticipate that those figures will get worse. That is what we can expect. That's why the programs we have put in place—the jobseeker program, the JobKeeper program and the cash flow support for small businesses—are all designed to ensure that Australians can get through this crisis and we can get to the other side.
Now we're in an important phase. Having put that lifeline in place, having flattened the curve when it comes to the health challenge, we now need to address that curve when it comes to unemployment. This is the curve we need to change. That's why we're reopening Australia. We're reopening it with confidence because of the health platform we've built that will see Australians coming back into work. We will work to build confidence in the economy and to build momentum in that economy as we move back to a COVID-safe working environment and which means that Australians can be supported through an economy that is built on businesses that are making their way again in a post-COVID world.
We cannot have an economy that is addicted to the measures we currently have in place. It will break free of them eventually. That is the day we look forward to, because on that day we will be in a position for this economy to grow strongly again in the future. (Time expired)