Thursday, 10 December 2020
Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I rise today to speak on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Extension of Coronavirus Support) Bill 2020. Through this bill, we are extending temporary increased financial support for Australians for an additional three months, from 1 January 2021, which is when the supplementary payments were originally slated to finish, to 31 March 2021. The Morrison government is committed to supporting individuals and families and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing additional financial assistance to people who have lost their jobs or whose income has been reduced. Quite simply, this bill will provide more money for people, ensuring that no Australian is left behind as our economy is recovering and while that recovery is still in its infancy. The government is still closely monitoring economic conditions. It would be irresponsible not to. It is committed to maintaining—and remaining flexible about—the support measures that we have.
To date, our temporary measures have successfully supported Australian businesses and individuals through the global economic shock and uncertainty. But we understand that challenging conditions continue. The government has committed economic support at levels never previously seen, totalling $507 billion, or around 26 per cent of GDP. This is in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Importantly, this support is largely temporary, which means that the government is not locked into the superexpensive ongoing payments. This is a responsible way we can provide the economic support that Australians need. This is why we are legislating this amendment here today. The government is providing a safety net to those that need it most, while, importantly, maintaining those incentives that are important to get people into work.
This bill responds to improving economic conditions in Australia, which is great news for Australia. As health measures in place to respond to the coronavirus pandemic have further relaxed, we are recognising that the global economic growth across the world is tepid at best and it's coming off a very low base. But it must be noted at this point that Australia's economic growth over the last quarter has been world leading. We came out of a recession and had 3.3 per cent economic growth, with Al Jazeera describing our economic recovery as an 'unprecedented kangaroo hop'. Our economy's recovery has been world leading not only because of its scale but also because of its flexibility and the government's commitment to broad consultation. Rigid and prescriptive measures simply would not have worked. It is worth at this point commending the opposition for their mostly bipartisan support for stimulus and support measures.
This legislative framework allows government to extend temporary measures in the income support system to provide additional support to Australians impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The instrument-making power will be used to enact the following settings to 31 March 2021. We'll see the most visible of the changes in the extension of the coronavirus supplement for an additional three months at the rate of $150 per fortnight, meaning no change to JobSeeker or other payment rates until at least the end of March. We are going to be extending the personal income test for JobSeeker and youth allowance recipients. This is very important, because it is providing an additional $300 that's permitted in income and a 60c taper rate, as well as adjusting the taper for partners of those on JobSeeker payments to 27c per dollar.
We are standing side-by-side with Australians, particularly with Australians who have been hard hit by the economic impact of this pandemic. This bill continues to support and provide the minister with the authority to support Australians as required during this holiday period and all the way through to March. I commend this bill to the Senate.