Thursday, 3 September 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Yesterday the minister claimed:
… we have to put the incentives back in place so people start engaging with the job market …
Given there are 13 jobseekers for every one job vacancy, what jobs does she want the one million unemployed Australians to engage with?
I thank Senator McAllister for her question. Quite clearly, the decision that was made by this government and announced in the July Economic and Fiscal Update for the extension of a number of measures—whether it be the JobKeeper extension or whether it be the extension of the coronavirus supplement—recognises the fact that we understand that the job market is still very, very shallow.
That is not to say that the jobs market has not improved; it continues to improve, with new jobs being created. But I will absolutely agree that the jobs market in Australia remains very shallow. It's particularly evident in a state like Victoria. I have to acknowledge that the Victorian economy and the people of Victoria are going through an extremely difficult time, with the stage 4 lockdowns having a massive impact on their economy and also on the livelihoods and the wellbeing of people who live in Victoria. But, notwithstanding that, Senator McAllister—through you, Mr Chair—the rest of the seven out of the eight states and territories of Australia are starting to see their economies open up as restrictions are lifted, and hopefully we'll see the restrictions lifted even further and we will start seeing the jobs that we want to see return to the economy come back again.
We as a government remain committed to having elevated levels of support for people across the whole of the economy going forward—these announcements have already been made—in recognition of the fact of the circumstances that are before us at the moment. We make no apology for saying to people who find themselves unemployed that we want them to start engaging with the jobs market. We want them to start understanding what opportunities might be out there at the moment. There are areas in our economy where we are seeing significant new jobs being created—and I think Senator Cash pointed out a minute ago the number of jobs that have been created by the recent times—and we will continue to support the Australian people through this pandemic.
The same day the national accounts showed the biggest quarterly contraction on record, household consumption plummeting and business investment tanking, the minister claimed that 'across much of the economy, we are starting to see the green shoots'. Can the minister explain to the one million unemployed Australians and the 400,000 Australians who are expected to lose their jobs by Christmas where to find these green shoots?
I would like to point out the basis of the question that has been put forward. The accounts that were presented yesterday reflected the economic conditions that followed the shutdown of the Australian economy in March following the states' and territories' decision to shut down their borders and close down their economies, and yesterday our national accounts reflected that. I don't think there's anybody in this place that would disagree with the fact that the result that we saw yesterday reflected a devastating impact on the Australian economy and the lives and livelihoods of many in it. It has been suggested that opportunities are not starting to open up in our economy, when the jobs figures that were quoted a minute ago by the minister who has responsibility for employment, Senator Cash, say that jobs are coming back into the market. We as a government want people to realise that we are doing everything we can to make sure jobs are created. (Time expired)
Australians are living through the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, wages are declining and 600,000 Australians have been forced to drain their super completely. Why is the minister telling unemployed Australians to engage with jobs that don't exist while refusing to use her power to maintain support and cutting payments for the 1.5 million Australians who are relying on them?
Senator McAllister clearly hasn't listened to what I have been saying. I have not denied that the jobs market is very shallow. I have merely suggested that the people who find themselves unemployed—especially in the states and territories where we are seeing job creation starting to come back online—should be starting to engage with the jobs market to see if there are jobs out there that are available to them. You to continue to perpetuate this myth about us making cuts, but I would reaffirm to you that we have continued the support that we have had in place by extending the coronavirus supplement past the end of September. In fact, I'll acknowledge that even Senator Gallagher said, 'We argued for it to be extended, and it has been extended.' Those opposite obviously acknowledge the fact that we have extended the supplement but are now coming into this place to say otherwise. I'm not quite sure what they actually want.