Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Cash. The only advice Minister Cormann could offer Darcy Moran, a hospitality worker suffering as a result of the Morrison government's refusal to include him and workers like him in JobKeeper was this: 'What we think would be fair to Darcy is if the state government in Victoria started easing restrictions.' Was Minister Cormann's advice—which is contrary to the decision of the national cabinet last Friday that states set out their own timetables—informed by health advice provided by the Minister for Health or his office?
I thank Senator Kitching for the question, but, Senator Kitching, I actually disagree with the premise of what you're putting. Senator Cormann was, of course, right to say that people who are currently unemployed will have more success in obtaining a job as each individual state and territory eases its COVID restrictions. That is the point that Senator Cormann was actually making. As Senator Cormann has so rightly said: we have a Labor Premier in Mark McGowan in Western Australia. We are moving, Senator Cormann, if I understand, to stage 2—to 20 people—as of Monday. That has been widely welcomed in Western Australia, but in particular by the hospitality industry, who know they are a step ahead of those states and territories that have not yet moved to 20 people. You look at what's happening in the Northern Territory and how that has been welcomed by people in the Northern Territory. So Senator Cormann was right: someone—in that case, a person who does not have a job—has more of a chance of getting a job, the faster that individual states open up their economies. That is what Senator Cormann was saying.
Was Minister Cormann relying on advice provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee or other relevant public health agencies? Does the minister support Minister Cormann undermining the decisions of the national cabinet and the protections put in place by the Victorian government on advice from its public health authority?
Again, I have to completely reject the premise of the question because that is not the advice that was given. If a person does not have a job at this particular point in time—and that is a very sobering state for any person—it will be easier for them to get a job as we see the COVID-19 restrictions in individual states and territories ease. Senator Cormann also said, though—and this is absolutely based on the health advice—that those restrictions need to be eased and businesses need to open in a COVID-safe way.
Does Minister Cormann's outburst against the Victorian government reflect the Morrison government's position or will he also be forced to issue a statement of withdrawal, like Minister Tehan did only hours after his outburst on Insiders?