Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Today the Minister for Finance referred in his speech to 'ensuring a safety net which is underpinned by a sense of decency and fairness'. Does the government think that living on $40 a day is decent and fair?
Thank you very much, Senator Siewert, for your question. One of the things that we do need to make very clear here, Senator Siewert, is that the $40 a day to which you constantly refer is the primary payment for jobseeker. It is but the primary payment, and almost nobody in Australia who is on a jobseeker payment only receives the primary payment. I draw your attention to a number of supplementary payments to make sure that our social security system is targeted and to make sure that, when people need a little bit of extra support, we actually target that support to those people who need it. For example, obviously people who have children are going to require additional support, so, through family tax benefit part A and part B we are able to target additional support to those people. For people who find themselves in a situation where they're renting, we are able to target our rental assistance to those people. In addition, there are a number of other payments, which could be the energy supplement, the utility allowance, the telephone allowance, the carers allowance—the list goes on, Senator Siewert. So, to say that you're referring to $40 a day is not an accurate reflection of the targeted social welfare system that we have put in place to help Australians when they're down and without a job.
Through you, Mr President, yesterday the Prime Minister said:
If people are in jobs, they don't need income support …
Does the government think that, by the end of September, potentially 1.4 million people who are still unemployed will have found work?
Thank you, Senator Siewert. Obviously, the No. 1 priority of this government over recent weeks has been to make sure that we keep Australians safe from the corona pandemic. We have worked tremendously hard on our health response, and I think everybody in this chamber would have to agree Australia has done phenomenally well in dealing with our health crisis. But we have a second responsibility, and that is to make sure that we kick-start our economy, and the road to our recovery is going to be built on the back of business because businesses create jobs. As Senator Cormann has just said, nine out of 10 jobs in Australia are with the private sector, so we are going to work very hard to make sure that we are able to stimulate the Australian economy within a COVID-safe environment to make—
You had a quote from the Prime Minister and that was a summary of the question you asked. I am listening to minister. I've let you remind the minister of the question. I think the minister can be directly relevant by speaking to the government's objectives on that matter, but I will listen carefully to the last 15 seconds. Senator Ruston.
Thank you, Mr President. Well, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know whether you have one, Senator Siewert, but what I can tell you is that this government will work tirelessly, day and night, between now and whenever we are past this pandemic, to make sure that every Australian who needs a job is going to— (Time expired)
Thank you, Senator Siewert. The government has been very clear that the measures that we've put in place—and there are a number of measures, including the corona supplement that you refer to—have been put in place to help Australians be able to get to the other side of this crisis, but we have always said they would be targeted; we have always said that they will be temporary. We will continue to work with the Australian people and through the economic stimulation that we need to put in place to make sure that we, on the other side of this crisis, are able to get Australians back to work. But we have been very, very clear about the supports that we've put in place—a whole range of them, ranging from the $750, twice, economic supplement that we have given to people on pensions, the corona supplement; whether it's been reducing eligibility requirements for people getting onto payment; whether it's been the removal of the asset test. All of these things have been put in place to help Australians get to the other side of this corona pandemic.