Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

JobSeeker Payment, COVID-19: Employment

3:23 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

We've seen in Senator Van's response the essence of the problem with the coalition's approach, which is that they blame everybody but themselves. The problem that Senator Van points to with lockdowns and border closures around the country is a direct result of failed national leadership. We have a national cabinet that's neither national nor a cabinet: it's just a photo opportunity. A complete vacancy of national leadership from this Prime Minister is a key reason why the Australian economy is in freefall.

There will be more Australians unemployed because this government's JobKeeper and JobSeeker packages were too little, too late and badly designed, and there are now more Australians unemployed in the economy because the economy was in a terrible state in 2019. The growth that Senator Van referred to is imaginary growth. There was no growth. We had wage stagnation, no real wages growth, good jobs disappearing across the economy and productivity falling. The economy was in freefall, and that's one of the reasons it's so hard to deliver growth at the moment.

There will be more Australians unemployed—more people will lose their jobs—because this government is cutting the JobSeeker and JobKeeper packages. There are a million Australians unemployed today. That is more people than in our history. Because of your cuts, 400,000 people will lose their jobs between now and Christmas. We heard in the minister's answers that she can't grasp the reality. She was quibbling about whether they were cuts or a continuation of the program. It's pretty simple. Are the JobKeeper amounts going to be bigger or are they going to be smaller? Are they going to be more or are they going to be less? She couldn't grapple with the reality and take responsibility for the impact that the withdrawal, the tapering off, of these particular projects over the course of the rest of the year will have: that more Australians will lose their jobs.

It's predicted that 740,000 additional Australians—this is from ANU research—will be plunged into poverty because of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker cuts. What do you think that means for Australian children in those households? What is the impact of poverty on Australian children? There is a complete disregard on that side of the chamber for the real impact of those cuts.

The minister said yesterday: 'Across much of the economy, we are starting to see green shoots.' Maybe in the garden parties that the minister goes to in Toorak Gardens, Malvern or Gilberton she sees green shoots, but across Australia in the country, in our regions and in the suburbs, this is what we see: we see a million lost jobs. We see no vacancies. We see closed businesses. We see dwindling opportunities and we see cuts to the other opportunities that Australian families look to to lift themselves up: cuts to universities, the TAFE system in ruins and cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

This government is totally out of touch. It has an incapacity to empathise with ordinary Australians, who have got their heads just above water at the moment. They have kept their heads just above water, month after month after month, and now the government is going to cut JobKeeper and cut JobSeeker, and hundreds of thousands of those people will lose those jobs. What do you think that's going to mean for Australian families? This government should be focused on a plan for jobs. It should be focused on using the power of government to lift ordinary Australian families into work, into jobs and into opportunity—and rebuild the economy. Instead, what we are going to see is callous Reaganite Thatcherism driving a very bad agenda for Australians—a weakened government impact. That is why many hundreds of thousands of Australians are going to lose their jobs.

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