Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

JobKeeper Payment, Pensions and Benefits

3:32 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Tourism) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) and the Minister for Families and Social Services (Senator Ruston) to questions without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) and Senator Gallagher today relating to the JobKeeper scheme.

For anyone that was hoping to be able to get some answers or clarity from the government today, they would've been sorely disappointed by the answers that we received in question time. What we see again is the government not providing that clarity and the government having no detail around what they call their snapback strategy. It is becoming clearer that it is indeed a flawed snapback strategy. More Australians than were expected have been forced onto jobseeker—140,000 Australians, to be exact. The government may refuse to acknowledge this, but of course it is unfortunately true.

I know many senators and members have been receiving a number of calls and emails asking, 'What is going to happen; what will happen post September?' because they're so concerned. We're unable to give them any clarity as to what this government is going to do. Government senators must know this. They must be receiving these calls and emails from people who are desperate to understand exactly what is going to happen post September. We didn't receive any clarity from the Prime Minister and we certainly didn't receive any clarity from Senator Cormann here today.

We have, unfortunately, 140,000 more Australians being forced onto jobseeker, but it's also true that the high number of people on jobseeker is a result of the bungled handling of the JobKeeper program. The government thought that 1.5 million would be on jobseeker by June this year, but figures released to the Select Committee on COVID-19 revealed that 1.64 million people are currently receiving the jobseeker payment. While more Australians are being forced onto unemployment benefits, local industries that may need help from the government to stay afloat aren't getting that help. Again, they're not even getting any clarity. So they're not getting the help they need from the government, local governments that operate regional airports aren't allowed to claim JobKeeper, our tertiary education sector aren't allowed to claim JobKeeper and our childcare and early-childhood education sectors have been told by the government that they will be the first industry to snap back. Hardworking Australians who have worked for the same company for 20 years have been told that they aren't eligible for JobKeeper either, despite the fact that they've been doing the same job at the same place for decades, because along the way the company they worked for was sold to an overseas company. For that reason, and for that reason alone, the government has chosen to punish these hardworking Australians and deny them and their employer access to JobKeeper. This is a real blow to these workers.

This really is a shocking way to treat our fellow Australians. The government's blunders and its decision to make our childcare and childhood education sector snap back will be particularly hard on women—96 per cent of the workforce in that sector are female. Women have been at the forefront of tackling the pandemic. They've cared for Australians who are ill. They've worked hard to keep our workplaces, our schools and our public spaces safe and clean. They've looked after older Australians and cared for and educated our young people. So what do we have from this government? We've had the bungled implementation of JobKeeper, we've had— (Time expired)


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