Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Senator Sterle, I'm not even sure what that was about. That was just extraordinary. It was all over the place. Being able to rehash all of those old white men who used to be the stalwarts of the Senate, I hope you welcome the diversity that we now see. And I am so pleased to be part of this place when we now have over 50 per cent women. It certainly gives a different flavour to the place. It's always great to get the views of a range of Australians. I guess that's why, when we look at a range of Australians, we look at how we can best support all Australians.
We've just experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we start the vaccine rollout and look to the future and look at how we can get all Australians back to work and our economy back to where it was, to pre-COVID-19 levels—that travel resumes, international borders open up and we start to see life resume to normal—it has been this government that has continually put in place targeted programs to ensure all Australians get the best opportunity but also that the taxpayers' dollars are going where they should go. It's not this carte blanche Prime Minister Rudd special, where they were sending cheques to dead people, where schools were getting wonderful halls that were over inflated in price, where we saw deaths, literally, occur due to the speedy rollout of ineffective programs.
The Morrison government has put in place targeted, sensible, economic programs that have ensured most Australians can be supported through this terrible time and we can acknowledge that, since the pandemic started, over 93 per cent of jobs that were lost or hours that went to zero have been returned. We're now seeing women's participation at almost the same level that was record high pre-COVID. But we do recognise that there are certain cohorts that will need more support than others. We're seeing older Australians being employed at a higher rate than ever before, but we're seeing at the younger end of the workforce market that there is a high rate of unemployment, that those jobs are slower to come onboard.
That's why the Morrison government has been so focused on programs to support apprentices, to make sure that businesses can keep their apprentices on. We've done that through programs such as HomeBuilder, where, in one of the areas that I have the privilege of looking after in the Hunter, builders and construction workers cannot keep up with demand. It's not only those small businesses in the area, it's all those supplementary businesses—the businesses that supply the tiles and the faucets and the grout. Those businesses are struggling to keep up with demand, and it's because of that program and those initiatives that we're seeing apprentices being kept onboard and younger people in the workforce.
We've also looked towards the JobMaker Hiring Credit. This is because we know from experience—and perhaps if those opposite were big enough to look back and make sensible decisions and have sensible discussions, they'd remember—that in the previous recession it was the younger part of the workforce that was impacted for the longest period of time. So in an effort to ensure that we don't see long-term unemployment occurring in our younger part of the workforce, that we're not entrenching disadvantage and unemployment for those under 34, the JobMaker Hiring Credit is a program where employers are bringing new people in the business, not seeing people just being supplemented and subsidised, that jobs are being created. This is to ensure that those members, under 34, of our workforce are given an opportunity to get back to work as quickly as possible and that we don't entrench long-term unemployment, that we don't entrench disadvantage and that we don't lose a generation to the workforce.
Economic recovery is underway, and I have absolute faith that the Morrison government will continue to roll out programs that are focused, that are targeted, that ensure that most Australians are set to benefit and the best bang for the buck of taxpayers' dollars is what's allowed to occur. We know that those opposite voted against JobMaker. They won't answer the question of why they don't support young workers. But this government, with this Prime Minister, will ensure all Australians, including our young workforce, are supported as much as possible.