Thursday, 18 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. I refer to an article in today's Australian Financial Review entitled 'Old jobs may have to go in PM's recovery plan'. Minister, which are the old jobs that the PM has given up on?
We haven't given up on any jobs. But—you know what—we're not living in a socialist-command controlled economy. Jobs are generated by businesses around Australia, not by government. The Prime Minister is just being honest with the Australian people. I remember a former Prime Minister who said something pretty similar in an interview with Kerry O'Brien. I think his name was Paul Keating. He was asked about all the jobs that were lost when tariffs were reduced. 'What do you think about that?' He said, 'There are more new and better jobs as a result of economic reform.' What we are focused on is more new and better jobs.
There will be some jobs which will not come back, and it will be better for the Australian people if they can find genuine, good-quality jobs in a strongly recovering economy on the other side. That is of course what everyone in this chamber should want to see. We can't be looking backwards. Sadly what has happened has happened. It has been devastating. It has been difficult. Some businesses, sadly, will not be able to recover. That is a fact of life. We cannot pretend and lie to the Australian people; we will not do that. You go right ahead and pretend to the Australian people that, through government edict, through socialist policies, you can somehow preserve every job in the economy, no matter what. That is not the truth. In a free market economy, genuine jobs will be created by genuine, viable, profitable businesses, and that is what we want to see on the other side: successful, profitable businesses that will hire more Australians again, businesses that have the confidence to invest in their future success because they know that the framework is right to get us to the other side of this crisis. We should never pretend to the Australian people that somehow governments can artificially protect every single job in the economy in the context of the sort of crisis that we've just dealt with. Just think about it, reflect on it. Paul Keating understood this; clearly you guys have gone so far to the left that even Paul Keating would be ashamed of you now.
It is reported that the Morrison government is giving up on keeping Australians in their jobs and that it plans to shift them to the jobseeker payment in September. Minister, which of the three million Australians currently relying on JobKeeper has Mr Morrison given up on, planning to force them onto welfare?
You clearly didn't listen to a single word I said in response to the primary question, not a single word. We want every single Australian to have the best possible opportunity to get back into work, back into a job. We absolutely want every Australian to have the best possible opportunity to get back into work. But we are dealing with the economic impact of a once-in-100-year global pandemic. Australia, comparatively speaking, is performing better than many others, which is not to say that Australians aren't—
It's a point of order on direct relevance. The question was in relation to reports that the government is planning to shift people from JobKeeper to the jobseeker payment. We've seen nearly 830,000 Australians lose their jobs since March. We would like an answer to the question: which of the three million Australians on JobKeeper is the government planning to shift onto welfare?
I would contend it is a very broadly worded question, Senator Wong. I've allowed you to restate it, but a question that has what I might call contestable language can be answered in a similar fashion. I think the minister is being directly relevant, given that. Senator Cormann.
The truth is, as the Australian people understand, we're dealing with an incredibly difficult situation. We've had to provide crisis-level support to the economy, to business and to jobs. That was temporary, crisis-level support. There are two very significant decisions on the economic front that we will have to make as a country in the next few weeks and months. One is how to transition in the best possible way out of the crisis level of temporary support to the economy in a way that ensures Australians are not left behind, and the other one— (Time expired)
At the same time that Mr Morrison is forcing Australians off JobKeeper and onto jobseeker, he is cutting the rate of jobseeker. Minister, can the government confirm that it is intending to force millions of Australians who currently have jobs to live on as little as $40 a day from September?
It has always been very clear that the crisis-level temporary support through JobKeeper and the enhanced jobseeker payment—that is, including the COVID supplement—is in place for six months. Treasury is in the process of reviewing the JobKeeper arrangements and also the interaction with jobseeker. There will be decisions over the next few weeks and over the next month or so in relation to how best to transition out of the temporary level of support. Ultimately, the objective ought to be that businesses around Australia are able to pay for their employees' wages out of their income rather than on the basis of taxpayer support. That has got to be the objective. But we'll continue to make responsible decisions. The next part of it, of course, is the need to ensure we reform the policy settings such that we can have the strongest possible and most sustained possible recovery and economic growth trajectory on the other side.