Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Questions without Notice

JobSeeker Payment

2:00 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Minister, what is the economic impact of the Morrison government's reduction of JobSeeker in 24 days time?

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

First of all, I would reiterate that the government is extending the payments to people who are on unemployment benefits with the extension of the coronavirus supplement from the end of September until Christmas. Any assertion that it is anything other than an extension of a payment is actually false and misleading. As I said yesterday, every single person in this chamber who came in here in March, when we put forward a massive package of reforms—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order. Senator Wong on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

My point of order is direct relevance. I know the minister is reading from a prepared brief. The question went to the reduction—those were the words used: the 'reduction of JobSeeker'. I ask her to return to the question.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

That's not a point of direct relevance. Senator Cormann, a point of order?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

One should never mislead the chamber, but certainly one should never mislead the chamber in a point of order. JobSeeker is not being reduced; it's being absolutely not reduced. The coronavirus supplement is being extended, and JobSeeker remains precisely as it was.

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll rule on the point of order when there's silence. This is traditionally a time the opposition values. I'll rule on the point of order. Senator Wong, that goes to the terminology and the substance of an answer, which is a matter for debate. I cannot instruct a minister how to answer a question. The minister is being directly relevant.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

What I would say is that the assertions that are made by those opposite clearly show that they do not understand what they actually voted for themselves when they were here in this place.

Second—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Wong, I'm quite happy to take that interjection. In fact, I'm quite happy to continue to answer this question without even looking down. But there you go—you can waste as much time as you like in the answering of this question by your interjections. That's entirely up to you.

Those opposite show their extraordinary ignorance in their understanding of the budgetary process and the economy if they think that one measure in isolation is going to actually tell them the answer. The impact of the suite of measures that were put in place by our government has enabled this economy to be cushioned through a once-in-a-century pandemic that has totally destroyed the economies of every country around the world. And Australia yesterday demonstrated that despite the fact that Australia and Australians have been significantly impacted by this coronavirus, we have actually fared very well on the basis of the economic stimulus that our government put in place in March to support all Australian individuals and businesses throughout the pandemic.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Gallagher, a supplementary question?

2:03 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

After the biggest economic quarterly contraction on record, the Morrison government has already accepted that we'll see further contraction in the next quarter. Minister, this is the fourth or fifth time I've asked you this question: what is the economic impact of the Morrison government's reduction of JobSeeker and the coronavirus supplement in 24 days time?

2:04 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Once again, you're probably directing your question in relation to economic impact to the wrong minister. I make my decisions—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

on what I—the money that is provided through the stimulus—

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order on my left. I can't hear the minister.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I provide my advice to government in relation to the initiatives that are put in place around social policy, on the basis—

Opposition senators interjecting

You'd like me to divulge ERC discussions, now, would you?

When it comes to social policy I make my decisions on the basis of putting in place the economic supports people need, depending on the circumstances that are before them. Right now we are in the midst of a pandemic, and the government made a decision, announced in July, that we would continue to provide additional levels of support until Christmas to people who find themselves unemployed. My decisions are always based on the social impact and the social imperatives of the people I represent.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Gallagher, a final supplementary question?

2:05 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

It's extraordinary. With the 1½ million Australians relying on support and 13 applicants for every single job, why is it that the minister can't tell us what the economic impact will be of cutting financial support for those who are on JobSeeker with the coronavirus supplement? Does the minister take any responsibility for making the recession deeper and longer by cutting the coronavirus supplement and cutting wages at the worst possible time?

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Gallagher, for your question but, once again, it just shows your lack of understanding about government budgeting processes and how the economy actually works. To take one single payment, one single initiative—

Senator Keneally interjecting

Senator Watt interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senators Keneally and Watt.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

and expect that one initiative to be the single thing that impacts on the economy just shows—

Senator Watt interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Watt! Remember the rules—

Senator Keneally interjecting

Senator Keneally.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

a complete lack of understanding about how economics works and how our budget works. Clearly this government has put in place the largest-ever stimulus package to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic. We have put in place initiatives that support people who are unemployed, for people to remain engaged with their employer—

Senator Polley interjecting

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

small businesses, large businesses, sectors of the economy that have been massively impacted. We have put in $314 billion worth of support to the Australian economy, yet all those opposite can do is ask me a question about one little tiny part of it. It shows your lack of understanding.

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order on my left!

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Wong!