Thursday, 3 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. For more than a week thousands of Victorian businesses and workers have lived with no income and no hope of federal support. Last week a senior minister told them to go to Centrelink, even though there was no help available. Today the Prime Minister has finally announced some support. Prime Minister, what took you so long?
The announcement I made prior to question time today is a standard arrangement, as I learnt when I was in New Zealand earlier this week. In New Zealand, which has also been a very successful country in dealing with lockdowns, support payments commence after seven days for post-seven-day lockdowns. In our government, we have taken a similar approach. In the first seven days, if a state chooses to put their state into lockdown then, as was the case in Western Australia and as was the case in Queensland, when neither of those states made any request of the Commonwealth, they knew and understood that they had the resources to support those short-term arrangements—and they proved to be short-term arrangements in Western Australia and Queensland. What we have decided as a government is that where a lockdown extends beyond seven days then the Commonwealth will put in place a temporary COVID disaster payment. That payment is $500 a week for those who would normally work more than 20 hours and $325 if they would normally work less than 20 hours.
That support payment is not unlike the types of payments that we make in relation to other disasters, whether it be bushfires or floods or cyclones or the many other areas where the Commonwealth government provides that disaster relief. I see this very much as disaster relief for the people of Victoria. This is not something that they have control over, and, with the lockdown persisting beyond seven days, we believe that it is a responsible thing to do—to provide a support payment to those in lockdowns that go beyond seven days.
But the much better outcome, I've got to tell you, is that lockdowns do not go on beyond seven days. The much better outcome is that students can go back to school, that people can go back to work and that they can do that safely. As a result—
Honourable members interjecting—
The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I don't know what it is about the capacity of members to forget what I said only the day before, but I'll now issue a general warning. It will make the running of the House far more efficient and it will save you listening to me for long periods of time. The Prime Minister has the call.
So, that is the better outcome. The better outcome is that everywhere we possibly can we avoid these lockdowns, because they impose such hardship on families, on businesses and on others. I welcome the decision that in regional Victoria those restrictions will be lifted. Even still, those restrictions are in place in towns and communities across regional Victoria which hadn't seen a case in a very, very, very long time.
Those Victorians in regional areas I know were denied the opportunity to travel to other states where they were seeking to be with loved ones. So, lockdowns are not the objective. Where they're in place, the Commonwealth continues to provide the support that Australians need and rely on.