Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the senator for the question. The labour force figures came out last Thursday. It was pleasing to see that Australia currently has a record number of Australians in employment—now in excess of 13 million. We also have a record number of Australians in full-time employment. But the point I made at the press conference I gave was that the February figures do not represent the impact of COVID-19. As the Prime Minister has said, as the Treasurer has said and as the Minister for Finance has said, tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of Australians are going to either be stood down or be out of work as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
That is why the government has put in place a process, which the Prime Minister stated when we announced our first stimulus package. It was squarely focused on keeping Australian businesses in business and keeping Australians in work. We recently announced a second package, which was squarely designed at cushioning the blow. The government is moving rapidly to provide assistance that supports businesses to survive this disruption and rebuild once the virus has passed. But, as I said, Australians are going to lose their jobs. We are very aware of that, in particular given what occurred this morning with the shutdowns in some of the states. We are doing everything that we can to keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs and to cushion the blow for those who find themselves unable to work.