Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Yesterday the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Lowe, confirmed that unemployment in Australia will remain high for at least the next two years, saying:
A further rise in the unemployment rate is still expected, … . The unemployment rate is forecast to decline next year, but only slowly and still to be around 6 per cent at the end of 2022
Why is the government congratulating itself on the economy when there are 2.4 million unemployed or underemployed Australians and the jobless queues are still growing?
An honourable senator: He did!
He did. To quote him, he said:
… we have now turned the corner and a recovery is underway.
An opposition senator interjecting—
No, it does, Senator, and it's offensive that you would suggest otherwise. It matters a great deal—indeed, in my answer to the previous question, I was very clear in acknowledging that there are Australian businesses and households who are still doing it tough. We know that. This is a global pandemic that Australia has faced, and we've faced it better than the rest of the world. We've faced it as a nation. We, as a government, don't take full credit by any means; we know that this has been a partnership with hardworking Australians and with Australians in business who have come through these tough times. This has been a partnership with the states and territories in terms of their responses.
Opposition senators interjecting—
I don't know whether those opposite would rather be in any other country right now, but I tell you what most Australians know: they would rather be here, because in Australia they are safer than they would be in virtually any other country in the world. They also know that in Australia their jobs, their businesses and their livelihoods are safer than in virtually any other advanced economy around the world. That is the result of the types of policies that have been deployed across Australia, but it doesn't mean that the crisis is over. Far from that, we know very well that there are more Australians who need to get back to work and that there are Australian businesses that are still doing it tough. That's why the budget we handed down this year, our economic recovery plan, focuses on job creation and investment driving the things that will help the recovery to continue.
The Reserve Bank governor also said:
In the September quarter, the Wage Price Index increased by just 0.1 per cent, to be 1.4 per cent higher over the year.
Dr Lowe went on to say that wages growth would continue to be subdued going forward. Why is the government congratulating itself on the economy when workers and families have suffered with stagnant wages and will continue to suffer under this government?
The government is absolutely focused on getting Australians back into work and creating strength in the employment market yet again. When we went to the last election, one of the key achievements that we took to that election was the creation, across the Australian economy, of more than 1½ million jobs during the work of our first six years in government. It absolutely devastates us, as we know it devastates many, that this pandemic has created chaos for many of those jobs and the households that depend upon them. But what we do welcome is the fact that we've seen 650,000 jobs come back, recreated over the course of the last five months. This is about making sure that we do get Australians back into work and, in getting them back into work, we recreate strength in the labour market and, through that, across the wages market too.
Minister, three million Australians are currently relying on JobKeeper and JobSeeker to get by, 2.4 million people are out of work or not getting enough hours and 337,000 young people are on the unemployment queues, with more to join them by Christmas. Why is the government congratulating itself on the economy when widespread economic pain is being felt by millions of Australians who are being left behind by the Morrison government?
Let me again deal with this attempt by the opposition to run some sort of congratulatory theme. The only congratulations I offer are to hardworking Australian businesses and their employees who have come through these tough times. They're the ones we congratulate for the fact that they have absolutely responded to this crisis, with support from the government. There's no doubt it's with support from the government. You cited some of those supports, Senator. You cited them. In terms of JobKeeper, the single largest intervention in an Australian economy ever, we created it and our government have extended it. We created it and we extended it.
But in this year's budget we also outlined the next steps in the economic recovery, outlining the fact that driving private sector investment is about job creation for the long term, sustainable jobs for the long term, getting the investment that absolutely generates business growth for jobs growth— (Time expired)