Senate debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Employment

3:17 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Gallagher today the economy.

Of course, today we saw some deeply horrifying statistics come out about the state of unemployment in our country. Today what we found out was that unemployment in Australia has hit 7.1 per cent, the highest unemployment rate we have seen in Australia for nearly 20 years. Those figures can be measured in so many different ways. What it means is that just in one month we saw 227,000 Australians lose their jobs, and of course that comes on the back of more and more job losses that had occurred in Australia after COVID-19 hit in the early months of this year. What we've seen in total since March is the loss of 835,000 jobs across Australia. That's far more than just a set of numbers. That's families without income. That's graduates without career prospects. That's skills going down the drain, unable to be used.

There were so many shocking statistics revealed today about the state of unemployment in Australia. What we know is that, in the month of May alone, we saw 2.3 million Australians either lose their jobs or lose working hours. In addition to the 7.1 per cent of Australians who are now unemployed, we have a record high 20.2 per cent of Australians who are underemployed, who want more work but are unable to find the level of work that they're looking for. There are terrible statistics, again, for youth unemployment, for the number of women who've lost their jobs and for the male participation rate. In pretty much every way you look at it, these unemployment figures are incredibly bleak.

The most worrying thing is that these numbers are set to get worse, not just as some sort of coincidence, not because of uncontrolled events and not just because of COVID-19, but because of decisions that this government is actively making to hold back support to Australians who desperately need it. It's as a result of this government's own decisions that the unemployment rate has got so high and is set to get worse and that we will see so many Australians struggle in the months ahead. You really have to think about this government's priorities. Due to this data being released today, we now know that more than one in four Australians is either unemployed or underemployed. Yet all this government can talk about is cutting back on JobKeeper and jobseeker support. So rather than actually being out there desperately working day and night to get people into work, this government's priority, at a time when unemployment and underemployment have never been so high, is to work out ways that it can scale back support. That is exactly the kind of excessive austerity that this Prime Minister has said he won't engage in—but he and his backbench are preparing to engage in this and make survival so much harder for so many Australians.

I wish that in the coming weeks this government, as it has important decisions to make, actually listens to some of its more sensible backbenchers, particularly from my home state of Queensland, who are saying JobKeeper and jobseeker need to be extended. This is going to be an incredibly important test of this government over coming weeks—to see whether it adopts pragmatic measures that will keep Australians at work, that will keep money in the homes of Australians, or follows its traditional ideology and cuts back on that support.

We have seen so many disturbing signs that this government is not going to be able to avoid its ideological blueprint. Just today, the Prime Minister has said old jobs may have to go. Rather than working day and night to make sure all of the jobs we have lost this year get restored, this Prime Minister is already giving up on a whole heap of jobs. What are the old jobs that may have to go? Are they the retail workers? Are they the hospitality workers? Are they the manufacturing workers? Are they the mining workers? Are they the aged-care workers? Are they the disability care workers? Labor will not give up on jobs and we will keep fighting for those jobs to be restored. (Time expired)

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