Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister inform the Senate how the Morrison government has stood alongside Australians through the challenges our nation has faced this year?
Senator Ayres interjecting—
Australia and the world have faced a year like no other. I thank Senator Paterson for his question, because indeed we are indebted and grateful to all Australians for all that they have done this year as the nation has stood together in response to the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression in the face of a once-in-a-century global pandemic. Australians have demonstrated their resilience and they should be congratulated and thanked for the efforts that they have made, the sort of resolve and spirit our country has been built upon.
Indeed, all levels of Australia have been challenged, including governments, and we have worked to stand alongside Australians in terms of the actions we've taken to save lives and livelihoods across our country. We quickly closed our international borders when the threats were evident that the transmission of COVID would most likely spread through the international transactions of individuals. We put health measures in place to suppress the spread of the virus. Our first aim was, and still is, to keep Australians safe.
We then, of course, in recognising the impacts of those measures to keep Australians safe, worked hard to cushion the inevitable economic blow that would follow. We put in place, most notably, the JobKeeper program, the single largest support measure ever introduced by an Australian government. We created JobKeeper and we have extended it and transitioned it in ways to keep Australians safe and secure in their livelihoods. The Reserve Bank has indicated and assessed that JobKeeper helped to save 700,000 Australian jobs. Our measures have, throughout the course of this year, provided the best opportunity for Australians to have their lives and livelihoods protected and they have put us in the strongest possible position for the future.
We do have strong data coming through to show that, although there is a tough road still ahead, the economic comeback in Australia is well and truly underway. We know that the recovery has some way to go and that we face many global headwinds, but indeed consumer confidence has once again surged to its highest level in a decade. When Westpac's monthly index jumped 4.1 per cent their chief economist, Bill Evans, said, 'After only eight months, the evidence seems clear that sentiment has fully recovered from the COVID recession.' That's only sentiment. We acknowledge that the work is in continuing the strong jobs growth that we have seen to date and to make sure that we get Australians back into more jobs. That's what our budget is built around and what our policies are built around—maintaining that whilst also seeing Australia's AAA credit rating reaffirmed and the support to make sure that we have growth across the economy.
The growth in jobs and employment is encouraging. There is, as I've stressed, a way to go, but over the last five months almost 650,000 jobs have been created, including 334,000 jobs of Australian women and 226,000 jobs of young Australians. The effective unemployment rate has come down from the peak of 14.9 per cent to 7.4 per cent, whilst the workforce participation rate is at 65.8 per cent and approaching its precrisis level.
Australia's strength as we entered this pandemic was indeed the fact that we had record levels of employment alongside record levels of workforce participation. We had managed to create resilience in the Australian economy and, pleasingly, we have seen that resilience see us through these tough times. By global comparisons, Australians can hold their heads high at the way in which we have managed together to keep Australians safe and secure this year.