Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

JobSeeker Payment, COVID-19: Employment

3:13 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of answers given today by Senator Ruston to questions asked by Senators Gallagher and McAllister.

Well, what an extraordinary question time we had today! It seems to be that there's a cancer in this government—that is, they don't want to pay attention to what is happening in the community, there is no accountability, and there certainly is no responsibility. Australia's economic activity fell by seven per cent in the June quarter, making it the first recession in almost three decades. Not only that, but we now in the deepest recession that Australia has experienced since the Great Depression. And yet we have a minister who can't seem to do her maths: there's a reduction to the JobSeeker payment—and a loss of $500—down to $300, and she doesn't see that as a loss. There were a lot of Australians out looking for work before we had this pandemic. And now the economic circumstances are such that one million Australians are out there looking for work. In Australia, the figures are that there's one job for 13 people trying to get a job. In Tasmania, my home state, it's at least 15 people applying for that one job. And the minister says:

But across much of the economy, we are starting to see the green shoots of our economy opening up. We are starting to see jobs occur.

Well, I don't know where she's been lately, but I can tell you one thing for sure: in Tasmania, we're looking at losing a lot more jobs. We know, because all the reports are telling us so, that we can expect another 400,000 Australians to have lost their jobs by Christmas.

We've seen time after time across the last few months small businesses closing their doors but failing to be able to reopen. We have a situation where we have a government that are great at making announcements. They love the photo-op. But they just don't deliver. We've seen that again today, when the minister stood up and tried to tell us: 'It's all okay. It'll be right, mate. It's going to snap back.' The reality is that, in the real world, when you go out and talk to real Australians, people are doing it very, very tough and it's only going to get worse.

I was reprimanded today because I held up a blank piece of paper and said: 'Here you are. Here's the government's jobs plan.' There is no plan. Unless we have a plan, unless this government can somehow get the ability to put together a jobs plan, things are going to be very bleak for our economy for some time to come. The leader of the government in this place said today during question time, 'There are a lot of jobs out there.' Please, tell us where all those jobs are so I can tell my fellow Australians who are either unemployed or underemployed. We have in excess of 30,000 Tasmanians who are either unemployed or underemployed now. We've got businesses—restaurants, cafes, hotels, clubs and the list goes on—that are doing it really, really tough.

We've got two economies running at the moment in my home state. We've got the businesses that rely on locals to support them. They're saying, 'Everything is going along as well as can be expected.' But they're not putting on as many people as previously. Then we've got the industries around tourism and others that rely on not only national visitors coming to our home state but also international visitors. So when you say that we've got green shoots I'd just like to remind you, Minister, that what's really happening is the vines are withering and dying and, with that, comes lot more disadvantage and social issues that are going to impact on our communities.

It will be a bleak Christmas for the one million unemployed Australians now, and there will be 400,000 additional people unemployed by then. While the government sing off the hymn sheets that we've seen over the last two weeks that we've been sitting in the Senate, where they've been talking about how good they've been with JobSeeker and JobKeeper, there are many in our communities who have been left behind. The Prime Minister used to say, at the start of this pandemic, that we're all in this together. That didn't last very long, because what he's doing is leaving people behind. He's leaving people behind and it's unacceptable. (Time expired)

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