Thursday, 18 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Why is the government willing to spend $78 million on taxpayer funded bonuses for NBN executives, management, and staff but has not been willing to extend JobKeeper payments beyond March to save the jobs of Australian workers who still depend on it in sectors such as tourism, live music and the arts?
I can advise the Leader of the Opposition that the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister announced a review of performance bonus arrangements underway for SES and equivalent employees in the Commonwealth Public Service in November of last year. In the meantime, while that review is ongoing, the expectation is that agencies with access to bonuses exercise restraint to the furthest possible extent. Minister Birmingham wrote to the NBN last year, reiterating those expectations.
I'm asked more broadly about the government's program of providing unprecedented support to Australian workers during the time of the greatest economic crisis this country has faced since the Great Depression. Our government put in place a targeted, extensive program using existing delivery methods that has resulted in one of the most successful economic policies this country has ever seen at a time of its greatest need. For it to be targeted and proportionate it needs to have a clear exit strategy that comes into place as the economy gets back up on its feet. The opposition, when it comes to JobKeeper, have had a bet each way the whole way, as they do on everything. They say they support it, they say it should be temporary, and when you—
Mr Speaker, while irony applies to questions rather than answers, my point of order goes to relevance. The Prime Minister was asked about NBN getting $78 million of taxpayer funds for the executives and at the same time not being prepared to extend JobKeeper in sectors like tourism, live music and the arts. That's what the question went to. It had nothing to do with the Labor Party or alternative views. It was a very clear question.
I raise a point of order on the standing order requiring members to be addressed by their title. The Prime Minister just referred to each-way bets and to the Leader of the Opposition, when the only person who has been arguing both sides of the case on wage subsidies has been the Prime Minister, who said that wage subsidies were dangerous. The Prime Minister argued against wage subsidies here on the floor and in private meetings, and now he wants to claim it was somehow his idea.
The JobKeeper program has been a lifesaver for Australians across the course of this pandemic, as those opposite would know. We have said on numerous occasions that those sectors that continue to be subject to very real challenges because of the nature of border closures internationally, whether it's in the travel agent sectors or the aviation sector, are under close consideration by the government as we look to the months ahead, as we continue to transition the various programs of support that we have in place.
Those opposite might want to undermine the confidence of Australians during the pandemic, but we are building that confidence. That's why over 50,000 jobs for full-time employees were created in January. That's why 180,000 jobs were created after the first transition of JobKeeper. Our policies are working. They're putting people back into work. The Labor Party continues to play pandemic politics.