Thursday, 18 June 2020
Questions without Notice
Pensions and Benefits
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Minister, yesterday in question time you said that the new rate of jobseeker under the coronavirus supplement was temporary and time-limited—that is, it finishes. Today the media are reporting that jobseeker will be permanently increased. Can you confirm that the rate of jobseeker and youth allowance will be permanently increased from the end of September? If that's the case, when was this decision made?
I probably would caution the senator opposite who asked the question about taking her policy direction from the media. Perhaps she might like to listen to what I've said in here on successive occasions and also to the responses that have previously been provided to the questions asked of Senator Cormann by the opposition, which have clearly outlined—
Honourable senators interjecting—
As I was saying to Senator Siewert when she didn't hear my response, the answers that have been provided in this place by Senator Cormann to previous questions clearly outline the responsible action that this government is taking to make sure that we put everything in place to support Australians through this coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, we have a responsibility to get our economy going again to make sure that we can create the jobs. We'll get businesses back to work and create the jobs so that Australians who find themselves at the moment without work or the JobKeeper payment are able to get back to work.
That was the conclusion of your question, Senator Siewert. I believe the minister is being directly relevant to parts of the question. She is talking about the allowance. It may not be the answer senators seek. There is an opportunity to debate that after question time.
As the Prime Minister responded today at his press conference in relation to a very similar question to the one Senator Siewert asked, the most important thing that we can do as a government is make sure that we work to get the economy reopened. What we won't do is get ahead of ourselves. I think that is exactly what you are doing here. You're getting ahead of yourself and are getting yourself overly excited about a report that was in the paper this morning.
Senator Siewert, you've been here long enough to understand that you cannot always believe everything that you read in the paper. What you should do is take your policy direction from the answers I give you when you ask me questions, and perhaps take some note of what Senator Cormann has said in response to a similar question asked by those opposite. Also, maybe you should listen to the Prime Minister's press conferences, like this morning's, when he did a press conference with Senator Cash, so that you can get a clear understanding straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, about government policy.
Is the minister saying that they are not going to be increasing the jobseeker payment permanently, given that two media outlets, The West Australian and The Australian Financial Review, on the same day conveniently ran the same story—what, they weren't worded up?
I have no idea what the basis of some of these spurious stories is. Can I just say—
Senator Siewert interjecting—
If you would like to listen to my answer, I'm happy to give it to you.
Senator Siewert interjecting—
Senator Siewert, as I said in my answer to the previous question, you probably need to do two things—a bit of advice. One is not to listen to everything you read in the paper, and the other is that I'd prefer you didn't verbal me. Much of what you say is actually what you said yesterday, not what I said yesterday. What I would like to reiterate is that I stand by everything that I said to you yesterday, Senator Siewert. The coronavirus supplement that was put in place in March, as a time limited temporary payment to assist Australians who found themselves in a job market that basically closed overnight, was a temporary measure. That remains the case.
I will take the minister's advice and re-read the articles in the media; they seemed pretty clear to me. But they also said that the government is talking to backbenchers over dinner. I'm wondering whether the backbenchers are suggesting a rate to the government?
I just draw to the attention of the chamber that Senator Siewert said that I had told her, in a previous question, to read the paper. I didn't actually say that; in fact, I said, to the contrary, to not believe everything you read in the paper. Actually listen to my responses to your questions, and listen to Senator Cormann and the Prime Minister.
In relation to who has dinner with whom in the government, I have no idea. I'm sure we all have dinner with each other on a regular basis. What I can say, Senator Siewert, is that this government takes very seriously its responsibility to look after Australians who are finding it very difficult at the moment because of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on all Australians. We were all devastated to see the figures that Senator Cash had to announce this morning. As she said, they were not unexpected but they were nonetheless devastating.