Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


COVID-19: Income Support Payments

5:10 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

What we can see by this minister's reaction is actually quite good. There might be just a skerrick, a little, tiny bit, of truth still in there, and she can discern the reality of what she's doing—that she's laying out a con job on the Australian people. She keeps using this word 'extended'. I want Australians to understand that the government are going to tell you, about the money they said you needed, that they were going to help you out with to make sure you didn't fall foul of this COVID-19 crisis, that they're extending their support. They use that word in the most deceptive way to try and convince Australians that they're going to really look after them. They will never tell you that they're going to cut your support. It's only pressure from the Labor Party in this place that has made the government undertake that commitment to eke it out a little bit longer, although they're cutting it all the time. Until this week, Australians didn't know if they'd have any support come Christmas, If it wasn't for the Labor Party, standing up in this place for hardworking Australians who found themselves on JobSeeker and JobKeeper, there is no way this government would have given the 'extension' past Christmas, to March. Just remember that while they're extending past Christmas to March they are cutting support for Australians.

The motion we are debating is about the Reserve Bank. I trust it an awful lot more than I trust this government. This government have another set of words: 'mutual obligation'. They make it sound like it's a good thing that you should seek out multiple jobs every week and that if you don't get the right number of jobs or you make a mistake on the paperwork you're cut off. They think that's a good thing. I've sat through hearing after hearing with Senator Siewert hearing evidence from people who've been cut off—hundreds of thousands of families at risk all of the time, because this government set up a structure where it can cut you off with hardly a moment's notice. That's what's going on. Do you know what the government want you to do? They want you to apply for these jobs where you live. So you end up filling out your form and sending off your job application. Who do you send it to? You send it to all of the local businesses, the local businesses that have no jobs, the local businesses that we hear are lining up for potential insolvency, the local businesses who haven't got the time to do the paperwork and manage these floods and floods of people applying where there are no jobs. The lunacy of what the government have constructed, the intellectual and emotional burden for people to be playing that game while the government come in here and say, 'Everything's good'—it's totally disingenuous. It's a deception of the Australian people. It's a perfect example of the spin machine that is the Liberal Party right now—the spin machine led by the master of spin, none other than Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister, the prime minister of spin, the man who is making Australians who are down on their luck apply for job after job after job that doesn't exist, the man who's pushing that burden of managing all of that paperwork onto small businesses that are already doing it tough. That's what's really going on.

The Reserve Bank put out a statement on monetary policy in November this year. It's pretty fresh off the press. Where they get their data from is not some spin machine. When they choose their words they don't choose words that they've workshopped to see if they can get away with telling lies. They actually rely on accurate data. This report I have in front of me has used record data from the HILDA Survey. The people who put that together are none other than the Australian National University. It's funded by the Department of Social Services. It's managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, the Australian Data Archive and the Australian National University. These are the people who gather the data to tell the truth about what's going on in Australia, not the spin that this government has made its signature.

What we know from the document, from the facts, from the evidence, from the data is that growth in employment, despite the government's constant claims—'It's all okay, don't worry about it. We're the Liberal government; it's all in control. We do everything financial superbly well'—is not good. Australians know they're not doing it well. Australians know that times are tough. They know that their families are vulnerable. We know from the Reserve Bank:

Growth in employment is expected to be subdued over the next few months …


… as policy support measures, such as JobKeeper, are tapered.

There's a very big difference between 'extended' and 'tapered'. This government tells us it has extended the scheme. The Reserve Bank tells us it's under threat because this government is actually tapering the payment and unemployment is expected to grow.

The pace of improvement in employment has slowed since August, because this government, which didn't want to commence the journey with Australians, was dragged kicking and screaming to provide support. Now, the government can't wait to cut off payments as quickly as it can and put people back on a path to poverty. That is the government's strategy, that is its goal and that is where it is headed. And that is where too many Australian families fear they will be at by or after Christmas, under this government.

The Reserve Bank Board approved the release of this document that states:

Employment remains well below its pre-pandemic level …There is a risk that business insolvencies will rise by more than expected as government support programs are tapered, slowing the recovery in activity, reducing investment and placing upward pressure on the unemployment rate.

That's what is really going on. (Time expired)


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