Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


COVID-19: Income Support Payments

4:59 pm

Photo of Hollie HughesHollie Hughes (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Thank goodness the Morrison government won the election and is looking after Australians in this unprecedented time of 2020. I would just like point out to Senator Green and to Senator Walsh, who clearly have missed what's been going on this year, that there is a global pandemic. So when we talk about a softening of the jobs market, an expectation that there will be increasing numbers of business insolvencies, that it is a little bit more challenging to find a job, that there are pressures at the moment around the economy and the workforce—that would be due to the fact that we are in unprecedented times globally. That seems to have missed their attention. There is a total lack of recognition of the economic carnage that has occurred globally thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which, in Australia followed on from the bushfires. That seems to have passed them by. But, as I said, many Australians are incredibly grateful that it is the Morrison government that is in charge. Because the Morrison government had put the economy in such a strong position prior to this occurring that we were able to act quickly, we were able to act responsibly and we were able to act in a way that ensured Australians were in the best possible position to weather the storm and to make an economic recovery as soon as was possible. This included the implementation very early in the piece of two measures: JobSeeker and JobKeeper.

JobKeeper ensured that employers and employees were able to stay connected. Even when businesses we unable to operate, employers and employees were able to stay connected. What we're seeing now, as businesses are starting to open up, as the economy is starting to move and as workers are returning to their places of employment, is that businesses no longer qualify. I'm sure what those opposite don't understand—since they are so disconnected from small business, family owned businesses and, in fact, anything in the private sector—is that those businesses see as one of their greatest achievements that they no longer qualify for JobKeeper. They absolutely celebrate the fact that their businesses are operating to a level where they no longer qualify for JobKeeper—that they're able to bring their employees back, that they're able to activate once again and act in a way that their employees are back working and contributing to the economy in such a positive way. We on this side understand that it is businesses that create jobs, not unions and not the government. It is businesses that create jobs. It is innovative Australians that create jobs and that ensure the workplace is contributing to the economy and that Australians are able to get back to work and look after themselves and their families.

JobSeeker was also put in place. There was a JobSeeker supplement that was put in place—a temporary measure, which is something else those opposite don't understand. They are sitting on my far right, but, of course, they are ideologically on my far left! They would like to see a living wage. We all understand that that's their position. But we did put in place a temporary supplement to JobSeeker, which has now been extended to March. That is something, again, that those opposite don't understand—that additional $3.2 billion of spending through to March. Again, that is an additional $3.2 billion of spending that somehow or other equates to a cut, over there. Lucky for them they don't have to sit an HSC maths exam any time soon. So that has been extended to 31 March. Also, there is a reduction of mutual obligation for an extended period of time. Again, those people who sit at that end of the chamber would have very much enjoyed seeing that being removed for a period of time. But JobSeeker ensured that those who did lose connection to the workforce were able to see that COVID period through.

We are seeing the economy improve. We are seeing significant improvements. We are seeing consumer confidence increasing week on week. In fact, we've had 10 weeks of consumer confidence consistently increasing. This week, we've seen a fantastic $4 billion dollar program, JobMaker, pass the Senate. Again, we've done something that those opposite don't seem to understand. We have a 10 per cent youth unemployment rate. The last time we had a recession in Australia, the hardest group to get back to work, those that were affected for the most significant period of time, were the younger workers. They found it more difficult to get back to work. They were more impacted for a longer period of time with getting back into the workforce. So the Morrison government is going to invest $4 billion in the JobMaker scheme, ensuring those under 35 are given an opportunity to reconnect with the workforce as quickly as possible. It was wonderful to see Senator Hanson and Senator Roberts get behind that. They understand the importance of supporting our youth and getting them back into the workplace as quickly as possible.

I do note with some irony that it was a senator from Queensland and a senator from Victoria on the other side who criticised what the Morrison government has done in response to COVID. If it wasn't so ironic, it would be laughable. Victoria is the great drag on the nation when it comes to economic recovery. There has been the failure of quarantine. The hotel quarantine disaster led to an extended lockdown. There was the shutdown of the nation's second-biggest economy. There was Premier Dan Andrews in the 'Republic of Danistan', where the dictatorship took off. Everyone was locked down in their homes. The economic tap was turned off. For years the economy will struggle.

It is the Victorian economy that is going to need the most investment to come back. That is where we are having to spend the tax dollars of so many other hardworking Australians, particularly from my home state of New South Wales, where the economy has continued to flourish thanks to fantastic contact tracing—it was the gold standard—and Gladys Berejiklian. Our taxpayer dollars will go to supporting our fellow Australians in Victoria, who had been locked down, thanks to a failed quarantine system. It was a Victorian senator who dared to come in here and criticise the fabulous measures that New South Wales taxpayers et cetera are contributing to.

That senator was followed by a Queenslander from the 'Republic of Palaszczuk'. They complained that jobseekers in Cairns can't find a job. If the tourism market were allowed to open, fabulous Sydneysiders would love to come up and spend their dollars. But they are banned for no other reason—

Senator Pratt interjecting—

It's a little bit petty. As we know, the Premier of Queensland is the princess of petty. The texts would have been flying last night after they were handed the wooden spoon in the State of Origin. 'Princess Palaszczuk' wouldn't have been happy with that. She'll probably be extending the ban on Sydneysiders for a little bit longer because her football team didn't get up. Honestly, Regina George in Mean Girlswould be so impressed with the pettiness we see coming out of Queensland. I'm sure Premier Palaszczuk has her own little burn book going up there at the moment and on the front cover is the fabulous Premier Berejiklian, who is showing the rest of the country what it looks like to do exceptional contact tracing.

The Morrison government has not only continued to deliver JobKeeper, JobSeeker and JobMaker to get everybody back to work but delivered a budget that is absolutely focused on jobs. We are seeing job creation occurring across the board across the country in states that are opening up. It was incredibly satisfying for me to go to the fabulous Hunter region, which is an area I look after, to see the investments we're making across the board in so many innovative areas, such as defence industry. I've worked so closely with the wonderful Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price. We've made over $50 million of announcements in fabulous innovative industries. We've looked at making body armour that's more adaptable for different body shapes and sizes and that's lighter and more agile for our troops. Millions of dollars have been invested in submarine technology. We've looked at the Singleton army base and at how we can work better with our troops there. These investments are critical, but that is nothing when you look at the investment we've made on the energy side.

It's always a pleasure to see the member for Hunter at these events. No-one understands the importance of affordable and reliable baseload power like the member for Hunter. It's such a pity to see he has been forced out of the shadow cabinet because of the loony Left taking over the energy policy of those opposite. Poor Joel is out on his own. He can't even look his own constituents in the face anymore because, as much as he understands that the blue-collar, high-vis voters are the old Labor voters of the past, his party has now abandoned them for the inner west, for the latte-sipping lefties, for making sure that it's all about where the sun is providing the renewable energy. It doesn't care if Tomago smelter goes offline. When they're offline for three hours, that's it. It's finished. The smelter closes. But that's okay. They don't care about that in Newtown. They don't care about that in Newtown at all. Poor Joel's had a bit of a shocker this week, poor love. He's had to step down. Anyway, I'm sure I'll see him soon when we're up there again.

It's absolutely critical that we acknowledge the fantastic work the Morrison government is doing on behalf of all Australians. We know how grateful they are because we hear it all the time when we're out talking to those real Australians.


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