Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. How many Australians are earning more than their normal wage because they are now receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy of $1,500 per fortnight?
Why should a single mother working as a casual teacher for five years miss out on JobKeeper because she hasn't worked 12 months with a single school, while a university student who's been a part-time worker for a lengthy period receives significantly more than their regular income?
There is evidence emerging of a clear split between Mr Albanese and Mr Chalmers, and clearly Senator Keneally, for the moment at least, is on Mr Albanese's side, because this is the point Mr Albanese raised when Mr Chalmers, the shadow Treasurer, was all in favour of the way we'd framed it, saying it was better to err on the more generous side than the less generous side.
I think you know, Mr President, my point of order is going to be direct relevance. The question that I asked clearly went nowhere near any of the things the minister is talking about. I would appreciate it if you could draw him back to the disparity between the single mother and the university student.
Clearly Senator Keneally is very sensitive about what I have just revealed to the Senate chamber. The argument that she is picking up, which is directly relevant to the question that she has asked, is the argument that Mr Albanese pursued on Fran Kelly this morning, where he raised precisely that question. It is directly relevant to the question.
Again, direct relevance. He seems to be ignoring your ruling to draw him back to the matter in the question. He is speaking about a member in the other place, not the disparity between the single mother teacher and the university student, a design flaw under his own program.
I am going to listen to the minister's answer. He is asserting that the quotation or reference he is about to point to is directly relevant. I do take senators at face value when they indicate that. I call the minister. He has 11 seconds remaining.
This is what Mr Albanese said this this morning, and it goes directly to the question that Senator Keneally raised: 'I don't think there has ever been a justification for people to get more money than they were getting before.'
Thank you. Perhaps it might be relevant to the next answer, Mr President. I don't think any President has ruled it in order simply to persistently quote the opposition. This goes to the administration of public moneys in this minister's portfolio.
On Senator Keneally's point of order, I allowed some latitude in her making it due to the first part of the minister's answer. I cannot instruct the minister how to answer a question or to address a specific term or example in it, as quoted by Senator Keneally. The minister must remain directly relevant. I didn't get to hear the end of that, but I will ask ministers to keep in mind the need to be directly relevant, not broadly relevant, to the question asked. Senator Keneally, a final supplementary question?
Can the minister confirm that approximately one million casual workers, such as the single mother who has worked as a casual teacher for five years, are missing out because they haven't been with a single employer and remain excluded by the government's design of the JobKeeper program? Why won't the Treasurer fix the government's design flaws and use his extraordinary powers to include hard-hit Australian casual workers in the program?
We are supporting long-term casuals, and we are relying on the definition of long-term casuals in the Fair Work Act. The whole objective of JobKeeper, as opposed to jobseeker, is to keep workers connected to their employer. As far as casuals are concerned, that is for casuals who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months. We are providing support to more than 5.5 million Australians, a staggering number, through this JobKeeper program, and the number is, I believe, still rising. But, of course, there are other supports available, subject to people's circumstances, depending on how much they otherwise earn and the like. For those who find themselves out of work, there are other supports available through the jobseeker program, which, of course, comes with all sorts of additional benefits as well, such as rental assistance, family tax benefit payments and the like. (Time expired)