Senate debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Employment

3:22 pm

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on Senator Watt's take note motion. I thank Senator Watt for giving me the opportunity to explain what our priorities are. Our priority is exactly to address the issue that Senator Watt has raised. Yes, it is dreadful that the unemployment figures are high. But, let's face it, we have gone through a global pandemic like we've never seen before. When we compare the impact our economy has felt to others around the world, we have actually come out of this relatively well. I don't deny that the unemployment figures are devastating. But what I will say is that our government is very well placed to address that.

Our JobMaker plan is to get Australia employed again, to get Australia moving again, to help rebuild our economy. We are doing it because we have an eye on the future. We have announced that we are commencing formal negotiations with Britain for a free trade agreement. That will open up markets. That will help us to broaden our export capacity, which helps our regional employment. We can get our agricultural produce into Britain. If we can do that directly, it will be a fantastic outcome for regional Australia. We are fast-tracking infrastructure spending. That is jobs in construction, that is jobs in the regions, that is jobs in our states. I cannot believe that those on the other side shake their heads at our plan to build infrastructure. That's what they've been telling us to get on and do for the last four years. We are doing it. We are getting on with the job of getting people back in employment.

Today we are about to pass the National Skills Commissioner Bill. That is designed to identify the skills gaps across our country and develop the education and training programs so that people are job ready and job fit. This can only be a good thing. The Prime Minister has committed to a plan to lift economic growth over the next five years by more than one percentage point above trend to beat the expected pre-COVID-19 GDP by 2025. We have a plan—we have an economic plan and a JobMaker plan—and we are committed to working on that to deliver it. All levels of government, business and the community must rethink how these systems can better contribute to our recovery from this pandemic.

Senator Watt said, 'What old jobs are we turning our back on?' We're not turning our back on any old jobs, but what we are embracing is the need to adapt. Our economy needs to adapt and our job markets need to adapt, and we are embracing that adaptation. We are not about stagnating this nation. We are not about relying on the old. We are about rising to the challenges of the future, rebuilding our economy and getting on with the job of getting Australians back into a job. I will not apologise for the commitment that this government, the government I am part of, has to getting people employed again.

We need to bring common sense and cooperation back into this debate. We showed, in fighting COVID-19, that unlocking infrastructure and investment is part of the recovery process. Let's not forget Australia entered the COVID-19 crisis from a position of economic strength. That is strength that this government was able to create. Had those on the other side been in government, I dread to think what would have happened and how we would have been able to afford to address this pandemic.

To minimise the economic impacts and position our economy to recover on the other side of the crisis, we have provided $260 billion in financial support for the economy. That's around 13.3 per cent of GDP. We are reviewing where we are at right now. It is appropriate that we take the time to review it. We're not pre-empting the outcome of that review. The Treasurer will update everyone in July, and that is the right thing to do. We need to take time to review the position we're in and move forward. I am very proud of our position, the position our government has got us to in this nation, to get ready to put people back to jobs.

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