Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Yesterday the News Limited papers reported that 'Scott Morrison is considering slashing the $1,500 JobKeeper payment or phasing it out faster than expected'. Minister, is the government contemplating the withdrawal of any jobseeker support to Australians prior to the current September end date?
Thank you, Mr President. Government ministers and Liberal MPs and senators are reported to be actively debating ways to phase out COVID-19 support to Australians in need. New South Wales Liberal MP Jason Falinski told media today: 'I think we should turn off jobseeker as soon as possible. As soon as the schools are back, then it should go'. Does the Prime Minister agree with his backbencher?
Firstly, outside of the parliament, on the Liberal-National side of the parliament individual members of parliament are entitled to express their views on policy issues. We think it's a very important part of the democratic debate, and it helps ensure that we get a better outcome by going through proper process. In relation to the JobKeeper program, the government's position, as it always has been, is that it is a substantial program providing support, as we speak, to more than 5.5 million working Australians and helping to keep them connected to their employers. That has been a very good thing and it has been extremely well received by people right around Australia.
We've always said that there would be a review at the midpoint, and Treasury will be conducting that review, and reporting that review in June. It is six weeks into a six-month program and we are committed to the program for six months.
Thank you, Mr President. Does the Prime Minister share Mr Falinski's view that we should turn JobKeeper off as soon as possible? Just one week after JobKeeper finally started flowing, will the Prime Minister cave in to backbencher demands to 'snap back' at the expense of the continued support the economy and Australian workers need?
The first point I would make is that it is our government that has put in place the support that the economy, business and working Australians need—our government. The member for Mackellar is right when he says we want people to get back into jobs and working for profitable businesses as soon as possible. Of course that's what we want. Of course we want to ensure that businesses can be back in business in a profitable fashion employing Australians, investing in their future success, hiring more Australians and paying them better wages over time. Of course that's what we want to see as soon as possible.
In relation to the JobKeeper program, the government's position is clear. We are six weeks into a six-month program. There will be a review midway. That is what we announced at the outset and that is what we all stick to.
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on the Morrison government's response to the coronavirus pandemic and the progress Australia is making to protect lives?
I thank Senator Askew for the question. Given that it is International Nurses Day, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding and tireless work of Australia's nurses in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Prime Minister has said, we are fighting a war on two fronts in trying to protect from COVID-19 both the health of Australians and our economy. Australians, though, have commenced the road back following the national cabinet's decision last week to endorse the national roadmap for COVID-19 recovery. And what we've seen since that time is state and territory governments respond and provide Australians with the vision for the road back both in terms of their health and the economy.
In terms of the work of the containment of COVID-19, we still have a long way to go. But our testing has now seen 861,000 tests across Australia. The rate of positive returns has now dropped to below one per cent across those 861,000 tests. Encouragingly, as we are doing more tests across the country, we are returning a lower percentage of people who are positive. We have now had an increase of less than half a per cent per day for over two weeks. For that, Australia should be congratulated. That is an extraordinary milestone and one which even six or eight weeks ago would have appeared impossible. We are now seeing downward pressure on those numbers across the country, and that is only because of the hard work of Australians. On behalf of the Minister for Health and the government, I acknowledge the hard work of all Australians in achieving those numbers.
Yes, I can. Our job as a government has been very, very clear, and that is to stand up for and protect Australia's interests—in particular, the health and safety of Australians. When you look at it in an international context, we have had significant success in managing and containing the outbreak of COVID-19 here in Australia. We have one of the highest testing rates in the world and one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. We have seen the growth in the number of COVID-19 cases go from more than 20 per cent per day just a few weeks ago to less than half a per cent today. Adjusting for population the death toll in the UK is over 110 times that of Australia, France over 100 times and the United States over 50 times. Again, this is due to the response of the Australian people.
In the first instance, as a country, we have now seen in excess of 5.8 million Australians download and register for the COVIDSafe app. Now, more than anything, as we commence that road to recovery, we encourage even more Australians to download the COVIDSafe app. This is an important public health initiative that will keep Australians safe from the further spread of COVID-19 through early notification of possible exposure.
We've also seen a three-step road map adopted by all states and territories, and we now have the capacity to meet all of the foreseeable scenarios in Australia. Again, I congratulate Australians for the hard work that they have undertaken. Through the steps that they have taken, we have managed to flatten the curve through our containment measures, and we have also been able to adopt—