Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Ethiopia, COVID-19: Income Support Payments
I want to speak today about the conflict and violence that has occurred in Ethiopia and particularly to acknowledge its impact on diaspora communities in Australia and especially in my electorate of Melbourne. Reports indicate that there are more than 45,000 refugees, and that thousands have lost their lives. Amidst all of this, the United Nations has not been able to safely deliver food and supplies, and thousands are in camps without access to food. People here in Melbourne and around Australia are desperately concerned for their friends, family and loved ones, and there are at least 50 Australians trapped in the conflict zone. In many cases, they aren't reachable because of a communications blackout. As well as the devastating human toll that this conflict is taking, it is threatening regional stability. The Ethiopian government has claimed victory and that the war is over, but there are reports that fighting is still ongoing. We're particularly concerned at reports of the conflict drawing in regional neighbours.
We call for an immediate ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, with protection of civilians. The international community must support a peaceful resolution, working with envoys appointed by the African Union. Sadly, to date the Australian government has been profoundly silent on this humanitarian crisis. We call on the Australian government to do everything it can, including advocating via diplomatic channels for a peaceful resolution and a removal of the telecommunications blackout. And that work must include bringing home the Australians who are trapped there, unable to communicate with their loved ones.
Millions of people will wake up in 2021 to cruel cuts to the rate of JobSeeker and JobKeeper as, once again, the government puts the interests of millionaires ahead of the interests of the million unemployed. While it recklessly pursues tax cuts for millionaires and changes to our IR laws that will entrench insecure work, the government is cutting support for the millions who are unemployed or underemployed—while we're still in the midst of an economic crisis. On 1 January, the millions who rely on JobSeeker will wake up to a reduced rate of just over $50 a day, and, by 4 January, workers and businesses will see the JobKeeper subsidy slashed. I've heard countless stories from my electorate of Melbourne that demonstrate just how disastrous and damaging these changes will be. Julie, a chef from Abbotsford, lost work as Melbourne did the hard yards to eliminate COVID-19. This reduced rate of JobSeeker will not even cover her rent, let alone food or bills. Local cafes and restaurants have contacted me, worried about being able to keep their staff employed after JobKeeper is reduced. And economists, unions, social service groups and countless others all agree: this is not the time to be cutting government support. Ripping support from struggling communities will only do more harm to our economy. The Greens will never stop fighting to make sure that no-one is left behind in this crisis.