Senate debates

Monday, 23 March 2020

Statement by the President

Coronavirus

10:26 am

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Centre Alliance) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—These are unusual times and frightening times. It's a time when we all need to pull together to support each other and very much not play political games. We will all be impacted by COVID-19. Over time we will all know friends, family, business associates and others who very much succumbed to it. Some will have few symptoms, others will struggle through and some will die. Life will very much be put on hold. But with the right support we will all get through this. We're all in it together.

Small business in particular is very much suffering. You can see the worry on proprietors' faces and hear it in their voices. They might not be across the latest numbers—and everything is moving incredibly quickly—but the falling number of customers through their doors, the falling store sales and very much the dwindling balances of their cash reserves show what the true state of play is. Their employees know it too. They can see the strain on the faces of their bosses and managers. They know that they might not have a job for long, but, fortunately, this package the government has put forward is going to be a big help for them and others. They're cutting back and keeping spending to the essentials just in case their worst fears are realised.

Everyone is affected—every business, every industry and every state. Alongside the public health crisis is a crisis of confidence that is very much stalling spending and investment. It's a crisis that threatens to cripple our economy long after the coronavirus has passed and a crisis that needs our attention and resolve at a time when we should be completely focused on the health of those we care about. Centre Alliance very much welcomes the government's economic response. We recognise that it has two objectives: to provide relief to the individuals who will find themselves in difficulty in the coming months and to provide relief to the businesses that will depend on it after the crisis to get back to normal.

There are measures in this package which in normal times we would seek to amend. We have a preference for policy measures to be well targeted, for rules to be in primary legislation rather than in delegated legislation and for legislative instruments to be disallowable. We believe this enables more scrutiny and provides a parliamentary check on government power. But we are not in normal times. This is a crisis and perhaps the most challenging situation for an Australian government since the war, so we recognise that the situation demands a timely response rather than a perfect response. We believe it's better for us to provide constructive suggestions and criticisms in private rather than through amendments and to hold off on formal scrutiny until the crisis has passed. This is very much the responsible thing to do.

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