Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Minister Cormann. It was revealed in corrected evidence to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 that the Prime Minister's handpicked chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, former Fortescue Metals chief executive, Nev Power, will receive a taxpayer funded package of more than $267,000 over six months. Can the minister inform the Senate how much income support a mother of three children who had been casually employed for 11 months and is excluded from the government's JobKeeper scheme and forced to rely on jobseeker will receive over six months?
A single mother in that circumstance will receive the COVID supplement, which effectively doubles the jobseeker support throughout this period. So we've effectively doubled government support through that period. In relation to Mr Power—and referencing back to the answer I provided to Senator Waters—he's not receiving a salary. He does come from Western Australia and there are some costs, obviously, in terms of travel, accommodation and other—
Opposition senators interjecting—
That is not something that has been negotiated by the government. An arrangement has been put in place by the Prime Minister's department, without the involvement of either the Prime Minister or his office. The department has provided appropriate information in relation to these matters.
A Gold Coast scaffolder who's worked crew to crew and company to company for almost 13 years has been excluded from the government's JobKeeper scheme because he'd only been with his current employer as a casual since September. What does the minister have to say to this worker, his wife and five children who face living on just $125 a week on jobseeker after their rent is paid?
Again, anyone who is on jobseeker will be receiving the COVID supplement, which effectively doubles the level of support. In those circumstances, it sounds to me that they are likely to also be eligible for other welfare support, like, potentially, rental assistance or a family tax benefit payment. In fact, the person that you reference in your first question, similarly, would be eligible, on the face of it, to a number of other welfare support payments.
This is a difficult period, but I can see that there is an attempt here to smear a distinguished Australian who is providing great service to Australia and is doing an extremely important job for Australia as we ensure that we are in the best possible position to recover strongly on the other side and who has been working with others—including Mr Combet, incidentally—to solve a whole series of problems to help make people's lives easier all around Australia.
Can the minister explain how the Morrison government justifies paying more than $267,000 of taxpayer money to a former mining executive for six months work while casuals employed for less than a year—local government workers, university staff and teachers, temporary workers, disability worker and arts and entertainment workers—have been deliberately and wilfully excluded from the JobKeeper scheme?
This is a disappointing return to Labor's 'let's turn people against each other' type of attitude.
Senator Keneally interjecting—
And, yes, she's laughing. We could go through a whole series of jobs and a whole series of people who do great work for Australia and how much they are remunerated. We could go through all sorts of public servants that are doing important jobs and how they are remunerated. The arrangements are entirely appropriate. Mr Power and the commissioners on the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission are doing very important work in our national interest.
My point of order is on direct relevant. The question is how the minister can justify $267,000—apparently not a salary but just cost reimbursement—being paid to somebody, given the people who the government is excluding to JobKeeper.
I'm aware that Ms Stephanie Foster, from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, went forensically, in some detail, through all of these processes, which is appropriate given that it is the Prime Minister's department that has entered into those arrangements. It was not something that was organised at the ministerial level of government.