Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Vaccination, JobKeeper Payment

3:49 pm

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm just going to inject a dose of reality into this debate, because it was sadly lacking from the performance of Senator Hughes. It was a bit of an alternative universe that Senator Hughes tried to create there, so I won't dwell on it too much. Suffice to say, if any of those Australians out there on JobKeeper saw that performance I'm sure they would be absolutely aghast that that is what the coalition senators are talking about in this important debate. You can make things up and you can throw all sorts of accusations, but what we saw today in question time was the collision of incompetence and neglect from this government, because the questions that we put about JobKeeper and the vaccine actually go to the collision of neglect and competence of this government.

The neglect is focused on those hundreds of thousands of Australians who are going to be losing their jobs in 11 days when they cut JobKeeper. That goes to the neglect of this government. The fact is that they are prepared to sit back and basically ignore those people and let them fall onto the scrap heap, because they are not focused on those people. Then we see the incompetence—and this is the dangerous part, because the incompetence is going to have consequences. It goes to the vaccine, and we are angry about the vaccine. That's because they promised that four million doses would be done by March, and we're not going to get anywhere near that. We're also angry because their incompetence on policy solutions is going to ensure that those who rely on tourism are going to be worse off as well, which is going to make their cutting JobKeeper worse.

They try to say they've got solutions to these problems, but none of them are actually going to work. The vaccine is slow. Their policy prescriptions around tourism are diabolical and aren't actually going to fix that problem. They can't put a policy solution in place, they can't get the vaccines delivered on time and they are showing neglect for those Australians who are going to be cut off JobKeeper shortly. That will have a significant impact in Queensland. What we have seen is a level of arrogance from this government. When the Treasurer, Mr Frydenberg, travelled to Cairns and Senator Green was there waiting for him, he had no policy solution. He had no detail about what he was going to roll out for the tourism industry.

There are 172,000 Queenslanders who rely on JobKeeper, and they are going to lose their payments in 11 days. That will actually cut $83 million a week from Queensland's economy. We can't afford to fall off a cliff when this ends. International borders remain closed, and we know the reason why, but the slow pace of the vaccine rollout is actually going to ensure that those international borders are closed for longer. What has been estimated across Australia is that 100,000 people will lose their jobs. We understand that a quarter of Queensland's 40,000 tourism businesses predict that they will go bust when JobKeeper ends.

The government is acting too quickly in removing JobKeeper, and it is too slow on the vaccine rollout. There is a level of incompetence when it comes to this. Currently around 203,000 Australians have been given doses. The Prime Minister promised there would be four million doses administered by the end of March. According to news reports, we are 2.1 million doses below the required level to meet that target of four million doses. Bloomberg has a list of all countries currently vaccinating, and Australia is currently 68th by the number of doses administered—behind Rwanda, Panama and Bulgaria, amongst many others. When you look at the doses per 100 people, Australia is tracking significantly below where South Korea, the EU, the US and the UK were when they were at the same stage of their vaccine rollout. There have also been media reports about the impact of this in regional Queensland, where doctors groups have said that they are only going to get 100,000 doses each week when they have 20,000 patients. So it is not going to do the job for those who need it the most.

I've mentioned the incompetence on policy as well. The flights announcement has been a debacle from start to finish. We saw the Deputy Prime Minister unable to answer questions in the media last Sunday. They've had a few days to get their answers right on this. Again, in question time we saw the minister representing not actually provide that answer. It's no wonder that Australians are anxious about this government and their decisions. It is a mixture of incompetence and a dose of neglect, and it is the Australian people who are worse off. Unfortunately, because of the decisions that they are making, the ending of JobKeeper is going to have a devastating impact for many Australians.


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