Senate debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020; Consideration of House of Representatives Message

8:08 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Trade) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the committee does not insist on its amendment to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.

In doing so, I emphasise that the government has brought forward this legislation to this chamber and to this parliament to extend an additional support mechanism that we put in place as part of the economic lifeline that we have provided to Australians through the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been an important part of the comprehensive response provided by our government to this global pandemic. In doing so, it's provided assistance that, from the very outset, our government made clear would be targeted, temporary and proportionate. We have stuck to those principles to guide us through the crisis. In doing so, we have been able to provide the greatest levels of support at the greatest times of need. But it is important to recognise that the scale of government intervention put in place in the depths of the pandemic is not sustainable for the long term. That is why we were clear at the outset that measures would be temporary. They would be targeted and they would be proportionate. In relation to the JobSeeker supplement and the JobKeeper payments, we have been true to those initial principles that we outlined as a government. We have ensured that, in being proportionate, we have adjusted them—gradually, at stages, over time. We have always indicated that they would be temporary. The measures brought forward here have a clear end date of 30 March. That is no secret; that is what the government said when we announced this extension. We brought it transparently to the chamber.

The amendments that the House of Representatives has disagreed with would provide for an enduring ability of the minister to continue the supplement. It is not the government's belief that that enduring power is necessary, and certainly not that it need sit in the hands of the minister in that way. This parliament will have appropriate powers, as it always does, in relation to legislation. We put in place extraordinary powers for ministers in the depths of the global pandemic, during those extraordinary and dark days. Australia is in a far better place right now, which enables us to be here, in person, debating these things, with parliament having resumed its sittings, in the ordinary, normal course of events. In these times, it's not necessary for the minister to maintain such powers in an enduring way. We said that these measures would last until 30 March. That's what our legislation does. That's what we're standing by. That is why the government has not accepted the Senate's amendments.


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