Thursday, 18 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. In my home state of Victoria more than 410,000 workers and over 130,000 businesses will be affected by the Morrison government ending JobKeeper in just 10 days. How many of the more than 410,000 workers will lose their jobs? And how many of the more than 130,000 businesses will be forced to close their doors?
I thank Senator Kitching for her question. It's a question that is eerily reminiscent of questions I recall facing at each of the transition points in relation to JobKeeper. When the government announced that there would be a phasing out of JobKeeper after the first six months and we announced the journey to doing so, at each of those transition points the opposition would come in here and ask questions about what would occur and potentially how many jobs would be lost. Yet at each of those transition points to date, we have seen that the number of jobs has kept going up, that more Australian businesses have graduated off JobKeeper, that more Australian employees have graduated off JobKeeper and that the number of people employed across Australia has kept going up—to the point where, as Senator Cash and I have both told the Senate today, total employment across Australia is now back at a level above where it was in March 2020. Total employment is back at the level it was before JobKeeper came into effect.
We acknowledge that there will be, for some businesses, potential challenges ahead. We've always acknowledged that that would be the case. But we've sought throughout the pandemic to put in place the safeguards to get Australia through the worst of it. And now, as we've very clearly come through the worst of the pandemic, through the worst of the economic crisis, we've made those measures more targeted. We've ensured that those measures home in on the parts of the Australian economy—
On relevance: I asked how many of the more than 410,000 workers will lose their jobs and how many of the more than 130,000 businesses—I'm happy to take a percentage or a number.
While the minister is talking about the specific program in question and specifically talking about numbers employed in the labour force, I can't instruct him how to answer the question, but I do believe he is being directly relevant. There's the opportunity after question time, albeit slightly later than normal, to debate those matters.
As I addressed very clearly through the answer to this question, we've seen jobs growth continue. The forecasts are for jobs growth to continue, and we will continue to support industries. (Time expired)
On Tuesday Victoria's 11 regional tourism boards signed a joint letter to Minister Tehan calling on the Morrison government to urgently add more destinations to its tourism support package. Will the Morrison government now add more destinations in regional Victoria to its tourism support package?
Our tourism support package—$1.2 billion, some 800,000 half-price airfares that we are supporting across the country to get people moving—is a package about which we said, at the outset, from day one, that we would continue to monitor the impacts across different regions of Australia and target and shift support and subsidy across Australia as necessary. So, we will do that; we are doing it. We will continue to do it through the life of this program. Around 46,000 discounted flights per week are being supported under this program. That is going to help to shift hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Australians around the country, generating more tourism activity, more bed nights, more experiences being booked, more opportunities for Australians to take a break and also for Australians to support the jobs and small businesses of tourism operators across Australia. We will keep making sure that the package responds as necessary. (Time expired)
I'm going to read a quote from the Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief, and I don't think she will take great satisfaction from your answer to my first supplementary question. Ms Mariani has said:
I've spoken with many operators who have said they have already told people that they can't keep them employed, so these are decisions being made right now … people cannot see a way out of this.
Why is the Morrison government turning its back on Victorian businesses?
I know that those opposite want to see everything fail; that's their whole modus operandi. But what we've seen in the short period of time since this program was announced has been a significant spike in the number of airline bookings across Australia. It is a significant spike in relation to people getting back to business, getting back to travelling and making those sorts of bookings around Australia, very much including regional Australia. We have seen airlines report lifts in their bookings, we've seen lifts in bookings elsewhere across the tourism and travel industry, and we've promised that we will continue to adapt this program, responsive to the bookings and information and data that we get from the aviation industry and the tourism industry, throughout its rollout. This is about us once again implementing a program targeted and responsive to the needs of Australians to protect their businesses and protect their jobs.