Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Matters of Public Importance

JobKeeper Payment

5:52 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

To the millions of Australians out there who have received their $700-a-week JobKeeper payment during the last nine months, who have been able to get on with their lives and have some certainty that they can pay their mortgage and put food on the table, you might be tempted to think that you owe the Liberal government for paying you this stimulus package during this difficult time. But it's really important for you to know that this wasn't the Liberal government's idea. It was many people coming together to find a solution at a time of crisis.

I'm very proud to say that the Greens were the first to raise the concept of a living wage and, at that particular time, to push the Treasurer and the finance minister to adopt a New Zealand-style or UK-style living wage, which ended up being JobKeeper. The union movement were out there advocating for a living wage. The business community were advocating for a living wage. We had this unique time in history when everyone was working together for the national interest. I remember putting out a media release on the day of the government's first stimulus package, saying we need to go further; we need to have a living wage to keep businesses going, to keep workers in certainty during this pandemic. It took two weeks for the government to come on board with the idea. And do you know what? I'm very glad they did. But they can't claim credit for this scheme, which has kept the economy going for the last nine months. It's not perfect. Nowhere near enough people got it. It was cruel and unfair in many ways that cohorts were excluded for political reasons. There were a lot of other problems with it, but let's be honest: it was a difficult time; we've never done this before.

We in this place should all be proud of how we had cooperative politics and we worked for an outcome. We need to be very clear from here that we're not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. While government regulations are in place around travel, border closures and restrictions, small business and workers will still suffer. We need to give them certainty. While government regulations are in place around travel, border closures and restrictions small business will still suffer and workers will still suffer. We need to give them certainty and we need to let them know that we have got their backs. I'm prepared to work across political lines with anyone in this chamber to make sure that happens. Let's keep the cooperative politics at the heart of what we do, not political conflict.


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