Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:22 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is pretty remarkable to get a lesson in scare campaigns from Senator Canavan. He is the master of those, so for him to come into this chamber and deliver a lesson to us on scare campaigns is completely unbelievable. I certainly know that the Productivity Commission must hang their heads in shame when they think about his former tenure there.

It is pretty remarkable to hear these conservative senators on the other side come in here and defend the trillion-dollar debt that this government has got itself into. It is pretty remarkable that they could plunge us into this trillion-dollar debt and leave so many people suffering as a result of the long-term damage of the Morrison recession that we are dealing with. It is important to remember that the economy was already pretty weak before we found ourselves dealing with the COVID recession that the Morrison government has overseen.

I'll get to the specifics of what we went through in question time today, because the questions we put to the government and the issues we highlighted are really important. I want to highlight also the lack of imagination and vision in the budget that was delivered last night. This is a government so small in vision that, as we confront this challenge with an economy that was already weak, it offers little hope about what a better future looks like. For those Australians who are doing it tough and have suffered as a consequence of COVID, the government last night offered nothing to look forward to over the next 18 months to two years as, hopefully, Australia and the world recover. There's no expectation from Australians that we can get through this stronger. It's almost as if the government said to those people: 'We're going to continue to bottom along here. We'll hit the bottom of the ocean, and then one day, hopefully, we'll emerge from this.' But it isn't going to be so that people can look forward to something better or that people are going to have the opportunity to retrain or get into different forms of work. It is going to be a very bleak future for those people who have been impacted.

That is where we directed our questions in question time today. We focused on the trillion-dollar debt that leaves many Australians behind. All the announcements, all the spending and they're still expecting to add 160,000 people to the jobless queue by Christmas. If you listen to the rhetoric from those opposite and what they've been announcing in recent times, it is still going to get harder for a lot of people between now and Christmas, which is only a few months away. They're racking up a trillion dollars in debt, but unemployment is going to be too high for too long, and many Australian families will suffer as a result.

We put a question by Senator Wong to the government on those people over 35 who are looking for work—all 928,000 of them. I know that there are so many of them in regional Queensland. I think of places like Hervey Bay and Maryborough, which have already had high unemployment over the last couple of years. A number of people in those areas will be impacted by this. They are going to be excluded by the hiring incentives. That will have a very significant impact in regional Queensland and make it much harder for these regional economies to recover, because of decisions by the government. They offer no delivery. We know that. They offer no plan for the future for these people to have something to look forward to, and the decisions taken by this government in the budget mean that the recession will last longer, will be deeper and more people will be impacted than is necessary.

They offer no plan to lift the permanent rate of JobSeeker from $40 a day. Imagine the anxiety from those people out there who are on this rate now trying to plan for what their future looks like. The government offered them nothing last night. We know about the plague of insecure work and the damage that it has done, let alone the role it's played in the outbreaks in Victoria, and the government offered nothing to tackle insecure work. The government did nothing to improve access to child care, which will be so important for so many families and parents who want to get back into the workforce; and nothing to tackle something that the Labor Party has been campaigning on strongly now for months, which is social housing. It was such a great opportunity to provide some long-term vision and some long-term good out of this challenge. They could have provided employment for people and given them something to look forward to—an opportunity to get into a secure house—and the government, again, provided nothing for them. They give nothing to Australians that will give them any confidence that their future is going to be better once Australia emerges from this crisis. (Time expired)


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