House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020


COVID-19: Economy

12:02 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This government is a jobs government. It's always been our focus, and it's taken on even greater importance since the efforts to suppress COVID-19. Prior to COVID-19, more than 1.5 million jobs had been created right across the country by this government. Female participation had risen, and the gender pay gap had fallen to record lows. We promised that we would create jobs and we did. Then COVID-19 hit, and as a result so much has had to change so very quickly. But we are an incredible country. We are resilient, and we banded together as a nation, and it's the efforts of everyday Australians that have ensured we have suppressed COVID-19. Most importantly, it is through the efforts of every Australian working together that we will recover. The most important part of Australia's economic recovery is getting Australians back into jobs. Our balanced budget and strong economic position meant that this government could act decisively and swiftly to implement the jobseeker and JobKeeper programs to give Australians the helping hand they needed in these unprecedented times. But now the greatest challenge is the road to recovery: restoring and creating jobs. We've done it before, and we will do it again.

The JobMaker plan recently announced by the Prime Minister details a new plan for economic success, backing business, backing our highly competitive industries and reforming the skills sector. One of the core principles of our government has always been to ensure Australians have the right skills to fit the workplace of today and tomorrow. We know that vocational education and training reform is vital, and that's why it's a core part of our JobMaker plan.

The government has recently moved to establish a new statutory position, the National Skills Commissioner. This new position, working with the National Skills Commission, will help prepare our labour market for recovery by strengthening the education and training sector. We know that, given the scale of the challenge we are facing, our system is not fit for purpose. That's why we are moving quickly to make the system better. That's what good governments do. They constantly look to improve how we do things in a changing environment. Not only does this mean that we need to get better outcomes for the industry and for those looking to enter the skilled workforce; we need to provide more transparency and value for money for the taxpayer.

I don't think it is possible to find a more determined or fierce advocate for vocational education and training in this country than Minister Cash. Her passion for removing any perceived stigma that a trade or a skilled based career is a second-best option is outstanding. She couldn't be more right. I support her wholeheartedly in this endeavour, and I intend to ensure that my own son, along with every other young person in my electorate of Ryan, gives equal billing and consideration to a trade or skills based career when weighed against a university degree. We on this side of the House are working to make sure that Australians striving for a skills based career are rightly given the opportunities, the jobs and the recognition that they deserve. It is their hard work that will pull our economy back up by its bootstraps. Alongside the Prime Minister, Minister Cash is working on ensuring that we have a system that can deliver the skills that are actually in demand by industry. Industry is the creator of jobs, and our education and training sector must be responsive and deliver the skills that the industry needs.

The appointment of the National Skills Commissioner will mean that there is an authoritative and accurate source of information for students to see where the jobs of the future will be and what skills they will need to be able to access those jobs. Importantly, the appointment of this position is not only vital; it's incredibly timely. As COVID-19 has shown us, the economy and industries will evolve—that is, the jobs that will be made as we come out of the crisis may not be the same as the jobs that were lost. That's why our VET reform will take skills training to new levels of responsiveness as the commissioner and the commission can flag emerging skills shortages and upcoming trends.

This government is absolutely dedicated to jobs. We won't be distracted by those on the other side of the chamber who seek to take away jobs and seek to destroy industries. We will be focused on making sure that we continue to create jobs for Australians and get them back into work. Right now, our industry and businesses are hurting, particularly in Queensland where a Labor state Premier refuses to open the borders despite there being no medical advice that it's required. What we could do very quickly is help create jobs in Queensland by reopening the border, as we are doing in Canberra to create jobs.

12:08 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They are very good at media releases over on that side and not so good on substance. They do not have a plan for our economy and they don't have a plan to support Australians. Australians saw the true form and the true colour of our Prime Minister after the bushfires. He left Australians behind during the bushfires. He had other things he had do and he left Australians behind. He certainly had other things that he had to do during the bushfires, but, worst of all, after walking through the towns and even after he was heckled during the bushfires, the Prime Minister promised support, and what did we get? We got overpromise and underdelivery. People are still waiting for support in those bushfire affected areas. There was the election commitment to build a hundred dams. How many of the hundred do you reckon they've built? I don't even have to take off my shoes and socks to count. Zero. They don't have a plan for the economy and they are leaving Australians behind.

Today, we've seen unemployment figures hit over seven per cent, which is obviously devastating for anyone in this country who has lost their job. I don't think there would be any member on any side of the House who would celebrate any job losses in this country, but it really goes to show: what are the government doing to support people out of this economic downturn? The front page of the Australian Financial Review today said it all: they are going to let Australian businesses simply disappear after the September end of JobKeeper and then they'll be moving people over to Jobseeker. What the rate of Jobseeker will be, who knows? But it says a lot about this government: they are not going to fight for the jobs and they are not going to support Australian businesses. It affects millions of Australians—not six million, like they originally said, but 3½ million, revised down in the biggest financial blunder in the country's history. They are going to leave businesses behind in the economic aftermath of the JobKeeper subsidy.

In my electorate of Macnamara, we have some of the hardest-hit places. Elwood, St Kilda, Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Southbank and Windsor are all places that are deeply affected by the coronavirus recession. They are deeply affected by the economic inaction by this government in leaving artists behind, leaving entertainers behind and leaving casual workers behind. They haven't been supporting people in the retail industry for years. We've had vacant shops on high streets across the country for years, and this government have no plan. They are going to leave businesses behind.

If you look at some of the things that they have announced, it doesn't take long to see why this government are going to drive the Australian economy off a cliff without any safety raft whatsoever. Let's take the HomeBuilder program. When I saw the original reporting after the leaks from the government had gone into the papers about how they were going to give $25,000 to Australians for renovations, I thought, 'You know what; that's a pretty good thing,' because the Master Builders Association said that over 70 per cent of their residential construction companies are worried about the forward pipeline of work. The construction industry in Victoria, especially for residential construction, is on its knees. What is the big plan from the Minister for Housing and the Prime Minister? Well, it's to give $25,000 for renovations that are going to cost at least $150,000, for people who earn a certain amount but not too much. I'm not the best mathematician in this place. I'm sure others could claim—

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am!

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Cowan claims that she's better at maths than me, which I would probably submit to. Seven thousand renovations mean, roughly, 47 per electorate. That means that 47 people in each electorate are going to get this home renovation support while 99,953 won't—this is why the member for Cowan is here! This is not an economic support program that's going to revive the important jobs in the construction industry. This is a joke. It's a reflection of the fact that the government do not have the economic plan to stimulate the economy. They are going to leave businesses behind, they are going to leave Australians behind, they are going to watch businesses dissolve, and they have no plan to support Australians after they remove JobKeeper in September.