Thursday, 18 February 2021
JobSeeker Payment; Consideration
That the Senate take note of the document.
Among the documents listed is an important item of debate that has great importance in the parliament and in the Australian community, which, of course, we've been discussing it this afternoon already. That is, the withdrawal of JobKeeper payments that's coming up in the very near future.
The three-month review of the JobKeeper payment back in June 2020 has become a justification for the government to seek to withdraw JobKeeper in the near future. But the issue is that this three-month review and its findings do not match the state of play today. The JobKeeper review—and the government still likes to refer to the findings of this review when it talks about its withdrawal—talks about things like disincentives to work because of the relativities of JobKeeper to the minimum wage. We know that JobKeeper was set at $1,500, and if you're on the minimum wage for a fortnight you actually earn about that same amount of money. As a result, many businesses, including tourism businesses, said at the time, 'We can't recruit staff.' That's all very well for the period of a shutdown when, in large part, in the first quarter, businesses around Australia were indeed shut down and needed to be able to keep those staff on. But now we very much see a situation where JobKeeper has in fact tapered. There are very active tourism and small business sectors and other businesses right around the country that used JobKeeper that are back up and running again. They've withdrawn the use of JobKeeper. Why? It is because they're back at full operation.
But what of the businesses that aren't? As Senator Green highlighted to the Senate this week when she spoke about the plight of businesses in Cairns and other high-tourism spots, there is no replacement for JobKeeper. The replacement for JobKeeper is in fact the very underwhelming JobSeeker payment. The government has made no indication as yet of the extent to which the rate of that payment is going to be maintained. We know that it too has fallen a great deal from where it was before. So, we had $1,500 a fortnight, which was the JobKeeper payment. We now know that JobSeeker has fallen to the same amount and we're going to see jobseekers go back to that $40-a-day rate, which the government has made no commitment to addressing.
The government has made a big song and dance about keeping businesses—small businesses, big businesses—affected by COVID going, but now that they're looking to withdraw support through JobKeeper they haven't got the economic policy settings right. There are small businesses that will fall unnecessarily on their knees because they're not yet able to make it through COVID. Now, I accept the fact that there will be some permanent disruptions because of COVID and that some sectors won't look the same. We're not going to be able to protect every job and we're not going to be able to protect every business, particularly when, for example, we look at their policy of having suspended bankruptcies. There are some businesses that will face these issues. However, there are still very viable parts of our economy that can and should be supported by JobKeeper payments. They have not continued to adequately consider the relationship with things like JobSeeker, the jobactive programs and the whole integration of these policies across the business community.