Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. Could the minister please update the Senate on how the Morrison government has kept Australians in jobs and supported Australian businesses through the unprecedented labour market challenges of 2020?
I thank Senator Van for his question. As 2020 draws to a close, I would like to thank all the small and family businesses out there—the almost 3.5 million of them that employ almost six million Australians each and every day—for everything that they have done in what has been an incredible challenging year for them, a year like no other and, more than that, a year that they could never have predicted.
This year, as we all know, Australia and Australians have been tested like never before. Lives and livelihoods have been lost, and many Australians, including those in small and family businesses, through no fault of their own are doing it tough. COVID-19 has without a doubt had a devastating impact on the Australian economy. But we've actually ended COVID-19, particularly when you look at the labour market, from a position of economic strength. Again, that is because of the hard work and dedication of our family businesses and small businesses out there.
In February 2020, Australia had a record number of people in employment—13 million Australians were in employment. This included a record number of women in employment, it included a record number of Australians in full-time work and it included more than 1.9 million youth in employment. When we came to office in 2013, we said that we would be a job-creating government, that we would put in place the economic framework that would allow businesses to prosper, grow and create more jobs for Australians. Since we were elected to office, we have now overseen the creation of 1.5 million jobs, and full-time employment has accounted for around 57 per cent of total jobs growth over that period. We acknowledge that governments don't create jobs; we put in place a policy framework. To all of those businesses out there, small and family in particular, we say thank you.
Well, Mr President, as you know: to protect the health of Australians, tough decisions had to be made by the government. Part of those decisions were to close down parts of our economy. What did that mean? It meant that businesses, through no fault of their own, had to close their doors. As a result, many jobs across Australia were lost. But what we did as a government was move quickly and decisively to put in place record economic support to support the economy and households to get through COVID-19. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate has already stated today, this included JobKeeper, JobSeeker, the cash-flow boost, the SME guarantee scheme and the early withdrawal of superannuation. We put in place a suite of policies that businesses and Australians were able to look at to see what suited them. As a result of these measures, we have now seen 648,500 jobs return in the last five months. Again, we thank those businesses doing the right thing by Australians and giving them a job.
The policies that we put in place have ensured that businesses have been able to reopen their doors and, in many cases, keep them open and also get Australians back into jobs. When we look at the national effective unemployment rate, it has fallen to 7.4 per cent from 14.9 per cent. Almost 75 per cent of those who had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 are back at work. Certainly there are, encouragingly, signs of recovery. The OECD has upgraded Australia's economic outlook by 0.3 per cent, confirming our economic recovery is underway. The OECD has also emphasised the Morrison government's economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic and specifically pointed to JobKeeper, personal income tax and the JobMaker hiring credit as all assisting in getting us to where we are today. Again, it is those small and family businesses that are the backbone of the Australian community, and we say— (Time expired)