Thursday, 18 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On Monday the Prime Minister and the minister said that the government would not be pursuing excessive austerity. Does the minister believe that forcing 3.5 million Australians off JobKeeper in September is excessive austerity?
What we have done over the last few months is provide historic crisis-level fiscal support to the economy, to business, to working Australians and indeed to those Australians who, sadly, lost their job. It's a program that's been put in place for six months. It was always very clear that this was a temporary program. But of course we are considering very carefully how we most appropriately transition back into a situation more akin to normal.
The objective is to maximise the strength of the economic recovery on the other side. That is what we're focused on, to get as many Australians back into work as possible, to get as many jobs back as possible, to get as many Australians as possible back into a genuine job and able to earn a living and ensure that they have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. Australians can be absolutely confident that we'll make sensible decisions, responsible decisions, as we have done throughout this crisis so far. Of course, when the relevant decisions are made about next steps and the next phase, we'll make the relevant announcements.
I would refer the good senator to my answer to the primary question. We are focused on making sure that we get as many Australians as possible back into work as soon as possible. Of course, if some of the states that are persisting with state border closures were to open their borders, even more people would be able to get into work sooner. We need to ensure that we make decisions today to maximise the strength of the economic recovery. Maximising the strength of the economic recovery will ensure that more Australians get back into work sooner. That is what all of us should be working on together.
The 2014-15 budget helped ensure that we went into this crisis from a position of comparative fiscal strength. If we hadn't made the hard decisions over six years to fix the mess that you guys left behind, we would have been in a weaker position to deal with this crisis. The Australian people know that it is thanks to the work of our government over the last six years repairing the budget, repairing the absolute mess that you left behind, that we were in a position to provide support to the economy, to provide support to business, to provide support to those Australians who are working for a business that is struggling through this period and, indeed, to provide unprecedented support to those Australians who lost their job. I can't believe that the Labor Party tactics committee in the Senate would be so brazen as to ask such a question—what chutzpah!—when clearly it is now proven how important it was that we did the hard yards fixing the fiscal mess that you guys left behind.