House debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Employment

10:14 am

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The past 12 months have been an incredibly difficult time for a great many Australian workers. More than a million lost their jobs or had their hours reduced to zero thanks to the economic devastation wrought on their employers by COVID of course. Millions more lived under constant threat of redundancy or were trapped working from home during what has been a very stressful lockdown for many. The Morrison government understood this hardship and the suffering. This government responded with $251 billion in direct economic stimulus—the largest investment of its kind in this country's history. I haven't fact-checked this, but I would suggest that it's probably one of the most generous packages provided to a community around the world.

We created the JobKeeper program to save more than 700,000 more jobs and introduced the JobSeeker supplement to help those who are out of work through the hardest of times. We invested a record $5.7 billion in mental health services, because we know how difficult this has been for so many people, expanding access across the country and delivering targeted support to the hardest hit areas. That and much more is what this government did to look after Australian workers.

What did the union movement do? What did the so-called champions of working Australians do? They poured millions of dollars of workers' money into the election coffers of the Labor Party. At a time when workers needed practical workplace support more than ever, almost $5 million of their hard-earned money went instead into their union bosses' favourite political party while another $2½ million was spent by the unions themselves on their own pro-Labor political campaigns. Meanwhile, these same union bosses at the ACTU had the gall to ask the government for cash for a workers awareness campaign.

It's very clear where these union priorities lie: it's politics first, workers a distinct second. To no-one's surprise, among the worst offenders were Labor's old mates the CFMEU. You would think the CFMEU would need every dollar it could to pay its $19 million worth of fines, but, no, they still managed to find more than half a million dollars a year to bung into the Labor Party's coffers. Just last week we saw the culmination of this abuse of trust placed in the unions by Australian workers with the broadcast of an unprecedented, shameful and dishonest piece of advertising which was just so insensitive, given what's been going on in the last couple of weeks. This government is all about looking after workers, because the Labor Party have abandoned them.