Senate debates

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Bills

Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Bill 2020, Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus (Measures No. 2) Bill 2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2019-2020; Second Reading

7:09 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I foreshadow that amendment. To these artists and to casual and foreign workers who have missed out on this package, I say don't despair if tonight's package passes without giving you access to JobKeeper. The fight is far from over. The finance minister still has discretion over billions of dollars of expenditure and can revisit these issues if the government is pushed. It beggars belief that they are throwing millions of workers to the wolves. Common sense tells you they should adopt this for all workers, just like they did for others. I believe that there is a reasonable chance that we may get there.

Lastly, I urge—indeed, I plead with—all eligible small businesses to get on board and to do the right thing by your workers, your state and your country. This wage guarantee was hard-fought to get here, and it will be passed tonight. Please look into it. There are plenty of people to help you navigate the details. Sign up and get your workers on it. Get the certainty that they need to get them through the coming months, to put food on the table, to pay the rent.

I would also like to say something, on behalf of Senator McKim, my fellow Tasmanian senator who's had a lot of people petition him about Australians abroad. I know it's been raised in the chamber here today that many Australians are currently stuck abroad and want to come home but are not getting adequate government support to return. It is imperative that the government do more to clarify what help is available and provide more direct assistance to people who want to return to our country.

In the last minute that I've got left, I want to put out a special message for Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and a Walkley Award winning journalist, who's still in Belmarsh Prison in the United Kingdom on a show trial, an extradition trial to the US. We know that Mr Assange is critically ill, and he's highly vulnerable to COVID-19. Belmarsh Prison has had an outbreak of COVID-19 infections. Indeed, they recorded their first death of a prisoner on 7 April, just yesterday. Nearly 4,000 prisoners have been released from UK prisons because of the risk of COVID-19. Why isn't Julian Assange being released? He hasn't even been charged with anything. He has served his sentence. He just passed 12 months in prison. This is ridiculous, and your government—the government in this country, Senator Payne—needs to do more to get him out of prison and get him home to Australia, where he is safe.

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