Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:11 pm

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

Well, let's just start with a few facts; it would make a nice change from what we just heard from Senator Seselja. The facts are that today we learned that Australia is facing its worst recession in nearly 100 years, the worst recession our country has faced since the Great Depression. We have seen the worst quarterly contraction of our country since records began. If there's one thing this government has set a record for, it's for setting new records of poor economic management. Even before this crisis hit, we saw the worst wage growth that this country had ever seen, since records began, and today we saw the worst contraction in the economy in any one quarter since records began. It's the first recession in 30 years. It is 30 years since growth started under a Labor government, which got the economy moving, got the economy growing and got people into jobs. Now it's all been brought to an end by a coalition government starving the economy and starving the Australian people of support that is desperately needed.

I might just point out that the government is very keen, as it's wont to do, to flick responsibility for what has gone on here. It points to the COVID pandemic, and of course that is a factor in this economy. But I didn't see anyone on the government benches running those kinds of excuses when Australia faced the GFC. All around the world after the GFC, the global economy went into freefall. All developed economies went into recession for years, except for one—Australia. Australia was the only world economy that did not go into recession after the GFC and that was because of the policies that were brought in by the Labor government of the day. This government could take a few lessons from that Labor government about how you deal with external economic shocks and protect your own population from the harm they can cause.

Just as we saw a Labor government take an expansionary approach to the economy after the GFC, we need this government to take an expansionary approach to the economy after the COVID crisis. Unfortunately, we are seeing the opposite. All of these facts and figures have human consequences. It's not just about percentages and records and things like that; it's about the human consequences. All around Australia we're seeing families losing jobs, unable to pay bills. We're seeing businesses that have been developed over decades collapsing and we're seeing Centrelink queues the like of which we have not seen since the Great Depression. These are the human consequences of this government's failure to properly protect Australians from the COVID epidemic and its economic consequences.

What's even worse is that, rather than protecting the Australian people, this government's policy decisions are actually making things worse. They are making this recession deeper. They are making this recession last longer than it needs to and they are holding back the recovery. We just heard this nonsense from Senator Ruston that we're now seeing green shoots in the economy. On the day we have plunged into the first recession we've had in 30 years—green shoots? I'd hate to see a dry lawn if that is 'green shoots'. This economy is in freefall under this government, and their own decisions are making it worse. They excluded casuals and all sorts of other people from receiving JobKeeper. They've set up a system where people are having to raid their own superannuation funds just to stay afloat because not enough support has been provided by this government. In the same week that we hear that this is the worst recession in Australia for 100 years, they now plunge on with their plan to cut JobKeeper, to cut JobSeeker, to freeze the pension and to cut the planned superannuation increases. So their own policies are making this worse and holding back the recovery.

What the government should be doing is coming out with some kind of a jobs plan. I was challenging the government through question time as to where their jobs plan is. It's a blank sheet of paper. It doesn't have a website. It's Get on with it. (Time expired)


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