Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is for the minister representing the Prime Minister, Minister Birmingham. I've actually got a favour to ask you, Minister. I've got a friend who's looking for a job. He's a lovely bloke; everyone agrees with that. You'd like him. Could you tell me whether there are any $400,000-a-year taxpayer funded jobs you're looking to fill with an ex-member of parliament?
I thank Senator Lambie for her question. The government, indeed, fills some jobs, and there have been some distinguished former members of parliament who have filled some jobs over a period of time—from all sides of politics at different times as well, I note. Of course, far more important than the jobs that the Australian government fills are the jobs that the private sector fills across Australia, creating sustainable opportunities for Australians and a growing economy. What we as a government were pleased to have achieved prior to the pandemic was a record level of employment across Australia. During our first six years in office we saw employment grow by 1.5 million additional jobs, thanks to strong growth across the private sector and strong growth in Australian businesses, which took on more Australians and created more opportunities. In doing so, what those Australians enjoyed was, of course, the opportunity of work, the opportunity to provide for their family, the opportunity to plan for the future. The benefit that provided—
I like to be informed in here; that's wonderful. But I just wanted to know whether there are any $400,000-a-year taxpayer funded jobs that he's looking to fill that may involve being an ex-member of parliament: yes or no.
So, having addressed those issues at the start of the answer, the point is that, through having achieved all of that extra jobs growth across the Australian economy, it created the situation where the welfare dependency among working-age Australians was at its lowest level ever. We had record numbers of taxpayers across Australia and we had achieved, indeed, a participation rate at its highest level. Crucially, women's workforce participation was at its highest level as well. They are the jobs our government is overwhelmingly focused on delivering for Australians, delivering as part of the—
I'm pleased to say the vast majority of the jobs our government has seen created under our watch are in the private sector. Businesses are growing across Australia, creating more opportunities for more Australians to get ahead, and that's our focus for the economic recovery too.
In the interests of full disclosure, because I'm all about full disclosure up here, there are a few things I should let you know. When he was a member of parliament, he lobbied the immigration minister to get the brother of a political donor an Australian visa to avoid jail time for criminal conspiracy, violent crime, drug importation and extortion. Should I get him to send in his resume, Minister?
Many people send their resumes, but it doesn't change the fact that our government is focused resolutely on job creation opportunities for all Australians. That was our focus prior to the pandemic. Through the pandemic our focus has been on saving and securing the jobs and the businesses of and the opportunities for Australians to keep them safe in a health context and secure in an economic context. Now, as we emerge from the different stages of recovery of the pandemic, we are focused on that job creation agenda again. Job creation is overwhelmingly occurring in the Australian private sector. Job creation is seeing that some 93 per cent of those Australians who lost their jobs or were reduced to zero hours around this time last year have now got their work back. Australians are actually back in employment thanks to the good management of an enormous global challenge that is being provided right across the country, for which Australia can hold its head high.
Just one more thing, and I'm sure it's only small. My mate took a job as a lobbyist while he was also a member of parliament. He didn't disclose it, but apparently that's okay in here because we have no standards. Also, as a lobbyist and a member of parliament, he was lobbying his colleagues to oppose his own government's legislation because his client was paying him to do it. Do you think that'll be a problem, or should he still put his resume in, Minister?
I'll refrain from the point of order that hypothetical questions are out of order. The focus remains very clear for our government, as I've said, on continuing to build the economic recovery for Australia. If people want to be distracted by other issues, our government will not be distracted. We will continue to focus on delivering the vaccine rollout that Senator Colbeck has spoken of each and every day over the last couple of weeks. The crucial steps in economic recovery will be underpinned by that vaccine rollout, the most complicated logistical exercise undertaken in Australia's peacetime history, probably, according to many of the experts. We are getting on and doing that in cooperation with the states and territories, in cooperation with health authorities. We're getting on with continuing to support Australian businesses. All of this is about continuing to focus on the things that really matter, like keeping Australians safe and secure.