Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the , Senator Ruston. A report from analytics consultancy Taylor Fry has found the reductions to JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments in late September had an 'instant and dramatic' impact on the finances of Australian households. Why is the government withdrawing fiscal support from the economy and reducing income to Australian households when so many Australians are doing it tough?
I thank the senator for her question—perhaps a repeat of the question I received from Senator Polley under a different guise, but thank you very much for your question. Once again I would reiterate that a decision taken by government—and this is giving you a bit of a lecture about how budgets work—to increase the amount of funding that is available to the economy must only be considered as an increase. For instance, in the budget, there was $507 billion worth of measures included to support Australia as we come out of the COVID pandemic. Two days ago, the Prime Minister and I announced another $3.2 billion. That means that there is $510.2 billion, which is $3.2 billion more. So you cannot possibly say that it is not an increase in spending.
What I would say is the really positive news, and the reason why we have been in a position to be able to work with Australians to put the right balance in place between providing elevated levels of support—recognising that the economy is still only in the early stages of recovery and that the jobs market remains shallow. That is why we made the decision to extend the supplement to support Australians. Over the last four months, 450,000 jobs have been created. Of the 1.3 million jobs that were lost in the early stages of the pandemic, 750,000 have come back. We are seeing the economic recovery start and we are seeing positive moves in the jobs market, but we also understand that Australians do need continued elevated levels of support. That's why this week the Prime Minister and I made the announcement to extend the coronavirus supplement for a further three months, along with all those other changes and enhancements that we will leave in place for those three months.
The report found the government's reduction in JobKeeper and JobSeeker will result in $4 billion less income in the pockets of five million Australians. Why is the government reducing households' ability to spend and support jobs in the economy?
I'm not quite sure how to answer this, because clearly you don't understand the difference between an additional expenditure and when additional expenditure doesn't occur. I have told this chamber on so many occasions in the last two days that we have made an additional $3.2 billion available to Australians in the first three months of the next year. I don't know how you can actually couch that in any other terms but additional funding. You can't say that you've cut something that was never there in the first place, Senator. What we have done is made the announcement that we are going to extend the supplement—that is, $3.2 billion over three months.
It is really important that we let Australians know that the economy is starting to recover. It is starting to open up; jobs are being created. In fact, the Reserve Bank said that the measures that have been put in place by this government have actually been part of the reason we're recovering.
The government's own figures say that 1.8 million Australians will be relying on JobSeeker in December. Why does the minister think unemployment payments should be going down when people's costs have stayed the same?
At the risk of repeating myself for the 456th time today—I might call a point of order on myself for repetition!—the fact is that the economy is starting to open up. We are starting to see jobs come back. Our jobs figures are showing that more jobs are being advertised, more jobs are being created and more people are able to go back to work. In fact, in the May figures we saw that we had 1.6 million people on payments, and at the end of October we saw that we had 1.5 million people on payments. That is way too many people on payments, and we don't shy from that. That is why we've extended the supplement to help those people through what is a tough time. We most particularly want to help them in their pathway back to employment, and that is why the supplement remains in place. But we do need to balance the difference between making sure that there are elevated levels of support to help those people and, at the same time, putting the incentives in place because it's our job to help people back to work.
Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on Notice Paper. In doing so, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Senator Ruston's mum, Joy, who's travelled from Renmark to be with us. Welcome, Joy.