Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has warned that the jobs of 3,000 workers will be at risk when the Morrison government ends JobKeeper in March. Why is the Morrison government turning its back on 3,000 Australians?
The Morrison government has proudly stood by all Australians through the last 12 months of globally unprecedented uncertainty. We have faced the most extraordinary of times in terms of the health threat to our nation and in terms of the economic threat to the livelihoods of many Australians and to the businesses of many Australians. What we have done through that time—and, I acknowledge, often with bipartisan support—is to be able to, in working closely with states and territories and authorities around the country, secure the lives and save the lives of many Australians and to protect the livelihoods of many Australians and many Australian businesses. We've done that by acting at all times according to clearly defined principles that we laid out at the outset of the pandemic to make sure that, when economic support was delivered, it was targeted, it was proportionate and it was temporary. We have responded, as the circumstances have improved through the course of the pandemic, to ensure that we deliver support according to those principles. Indeed, when it came to the creation of JobKeeper, we created it. When it came to the extension of it, we extended it. But also, at the point of extension, we heeded messages, including from the Leader of the Opposition, that there needed to be a tapering of it before it was withdrawn. So we applied a tapering of it. And we will respond, in the lead-up to March, according to all of the evidence and analysis that is available at that time, to look carefully and closely at what types of additional support, if any, are necessary across the Australian economy in addition to those that will continue to deliver significant economic support. (Time expired)
Ms Hrdlicka has also said that Virgin Australia may be forced 'to make tough decisions on how many people we can afford to keep on the books'. When JobKeeper ends, in 52 days, how many more aviation jobs will be lost as a result of Mr Morrison's stubborn refusal to act?
Thousands of jobs have been saved by actions through this pandemic. Many thousands of jobs have been saved as a result of actions through this pandemic. But we were also honest at the outset. I remember saying this myself. I remember former Senator Cormann saying it. I know that those in the other place did as well. Not every job and not every business would be able to be saved. Indeed, the pandemic is creating structural changes around the world as well. Not all aspects of previous economic activity are going to come back the way they were beforehand. So difficult decisions will be made by different businesses facing those structural challenges. But we will continue to respond with support in the Australian economy when and where it's appropriate—
A point of order on direct relevance: the question does not go to jobs across the economy, which the minister is referring to, but to how many more aviation jobs will be lost as a result of the government's refusal to act.
Senator Wong, with respect, I think you dropped a word there. The word 'stubborn' was in the second part of the question. I've made a previous ruling that there's a lot more latitude for ministers to address questions broadly when there are pejorative political phrases included in the questions. In this case, I think the minister is being directly relevant to the question. Senator Birmingham.
As I was saying, we will continue to respond as appropriate to the different circumstances, including in different industries, including the aviation industry, where we have targeted support, and we will continue to look at their unique circumstances. (Time expired)
We've provided some $2.7 billion in support across the aviation sector to date, and, as I said in response to the last question, we will continue to analyse the circumstances and we will continue to respond according to the principles we set out—that support should be targeted where it's necessary and proportionate to those circumstances. It does also need to be temporary, because the Australian economy can't be run off of endless taxpayer money forever. But these are difficult times and that's why we put in place the range of supports that are there.
In terms of the industrial relations reforms that we've brought to this parliament, we bought them to this parliament in good faith to make the industrial relations system in Australia more efficient, more effective in ways to continue to help get more Australians into jobs. What is remarkable is the policy position that's being taken by those opposite, which is to say no to all of it. Even the bits the unions agreed to, they're now saying no to. They're just anti any type of reform that may get Australians back into jobs. (Time expired)