Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is also to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cash. The Morrison government's economic plan has helped Australia lead the world in recovering from the COVID-19 recession. How is the government securing Australia's recovery and supporting economic growth and jobs creation going forward?
I thank Senator Smith for the question. The Australian economy has well and truly demonstrated remarked resilience in the face of COVID-19. On any analysis, and as will be outlined tonight by the Treasurer when he delivers his next budget, the outlook is positive, in particular in relation to employment in Australia. The Morrison government is committed to getting more Australians into jobs, and what we have seen in relation to employment levels is that they have recovered since the sharp fall associated with the initial impacts of COVID-19. In fact, what we are seeing as the Treasurer will hand down his budget tonight, is more Australians are employed today than there were prior to COVID-19.
In particular, labour market conditions have substantially improved over the last six months. Employment increased: in October last year, 176,800 persons; in November, 86,200 persons; in December, 46,300 persons; in January this year, 29,500 persons; in February, 88,700 persons; and, colleagues, in March, the most recent labour force figures, by 70,700 persons. What we have seen is employment has risen by 947,100 persons from May 2020 to March 2021. What we have seen in relation to the unemployment rate is it declined to 5.6 per cent in March 2021, from a peak of 7.5 per cent, if you recall, colleagues, in July 2020, but it is also considerably lower than what Treasury first estimated, which was 15 per cent. So, in relation to employment, the jobs are returning to the labour market.
The Morrison government's economic plan is working. But, as the Prime Minister and the Treasurer remind Australians, we are not yet out of the pandemic. We are better placed than most other countries in the world to meet the challenges that lie ahead. The budget that the Treasurer will set out tonight will set out the next stage of the Morrison government's economic plan to secure Australia's recovery. What we will be focused on in our budget is further measures to create jobs, guaranteeing the essential services that Australians rely on but also building a more resilient and secure Australia. We have already announced, as part of the budget, a $1.7 billion investment in child care. That is all about boosting workforce participation. In terms of women's health, $353 million will be invested to support women's health and, of course, $1.2 billion will be invested as part of our digital economy strategy.
Mr President, as you know, in terms of an economic downturn due to a pandemic, the first people to be let go are apprentices and trainees, and that's why the Morrison government put in place policies to ensure that businesses that had employee apprentices and trainees were able to keep them on at the beginning of the pandemic. What we have seen, as a result of our Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy, is 123,000 apprentices have been kept on since the beginning of COVID-19. But we've gone further than that and we have put in place our Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements wage subsidy. We wanted to bring on 100,000 new apprentices in a 12-month period. I'm pleased to inform the chamber that we did that in less than five months. We have now extended that wage subsidy and, to date, colleagues, over 140,000 new commencements, new apprentices and trainees, have been brought on.