Wednesday, 11 November 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. How many unemployed Australians are there for every job vacancy right now, and how would the Morrison government's decision to reduce the coronavirus supplement by $100 a fortnight help those Australians in need and support job creation and the economy?
I thank Senator Polley very much for her question, because it's obviously a very important issue this week. I'll make a couple of points before I go to the direct question that you asked, Senator Polley. First of all, the decision that has been made by the Morrison government, that was announced yesterday by me and the Prime Minister, related to the extension of temporary measures. I would point out that when a government spends $3.2 billion you can hardly refer to that as a cut. So $3.2 billion of additional funding will be made available to Australians in the first three months of 2021 to continue to provide elevated levels of support for people, particularly those people that have been hardest hit by the COVID pandemic.
I would also like the opportunity to advise the chamber that not only has the coronavirus supplement been extended, again—it was extended on 25 September—it will be, again, extended on 1 January for a further three months. But there are a number of other very important measures. I know Senator Siewert will probably understand the importance of some of these other measures; whereas, perhaps, you are not particularly interested, on the other side. By extending the eligibility criteria, many, many more Australians who otherwise would previously not have been able to get access to payment currently are being able to get access to payment.
On relevance, Mr President. The minister did promise us that at some point she'd get to answering the question. How many unemployed Australians are there for every job vacancy right now?
That was the first part of the question, Senator Watt. I'll allow you to remind the minister of that. The second part was somewhat more general, referring to other factors. I can't instruct the minister which part of a question to answer or to be directly relevant to. Senator Ruston.
I remind the Senate—that was the first part of the question, Senator Wong. There was a lengthier second part of the question. Specific questions have very tight tests for direct relevance. The second part of the question was much more general in nature and the minister, by talking about that particular statistic, in my view, is directly relevant to that part of the question. Senator Ruston.
I'm so glad I've got a supplementary. With 1.8 million Australians relying on JobSeeker by Christmas, what is the economic impact of your decision to further reduce the coronavirus supplement by $100 a fortnight?
Thank you, Senator Polley, for your follow-up question. There will be a positive impact, for an additional $3.2 billion is being made available to Australians in the first three months of 2021. You cannot characterise an increase in spending of $3.2 billion as a cut and, equally, you cannot suggest that there is going to be a negative impact on the economy of additional spending of $3.2 billion. I'm not sure whether you just do not understand the budgetary process and how that works or whether you're genuinely trying to be disingenuous about the question—
Senator Polley, that's not a point of order. The minister is being directly relevant. I can't put words in the minister's mouth, but she is being directly relevant to the question asked. There's a time to debate answers after question time.
As I was saying, $3.2 billion into the economy will have a positive economic impact in the economy, and the fact that those opposite seem to misunderstand what additional spending has been announced—this was not in the budget. This was announced yesterday. It will be part of MYEFO. It is new spending of $3.2 billion— (Time expired)
Australia is enduring the worst recession in almost 100 years. We have record levels of unemployment that continue to rise, and there are currently seven jobseekers for every available job in Australia today. Why is now the right time to be reducing support for Australians without work and withdrawing critical support from the economy?
I will reiterate the fact that I think Senator Polley has couched the question in completely the wrong terms—$3.2 billion of additional spending is not reducing money from the economy. But what I would say is the reason that the government has made the decision to extend the coronavirus supplement post 1 January is because we recognise that, whilst the economy is showing signs of recovery—in fact, the Reserve Bank governor, Mr Lowe, said last week that the Australian economy was well underway in terms of its economic recovery—it is in its early stages, and that is why we have extended the supplement. It is why we have extended the expanded measures to allow extra people to be able to get the payment—people who are self-employed, people who are sole traders, people who are caring for somebody who may have coronavirus or may have it themselves, people who've been stood down. We are waiving waiting periods. We've continued elevated levels for people on partner income. To couch it in any other term is disingenuous. (Time expired)