Thursday, 13 May 2021
Questions without Notice
Honourable senators interjecting—
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, the fabulous Senator Cash. We are currently seeing many green shoots with our economic recovery. Can the minister outline how the Liberal and National government's 2021-22 budget is securing Australia's economic recovery and helping employ more Australians?
I thank Senator McMahon for her question and I acknowledge her deep commitment to the Northern Territory and to ensuring businesses stay in business and jobs are created. Australia entered the COVID-19 pandemic from a position of economic strength. Those opposite, prior to COVID, liked to talk the economy down but it was performing strongly, as we know. For the first time in 11 years, the budget was in balance. We actually had workforce participation in Australia, prior to COVID, at a record high. In excess of 13 million Australians were in work. Of course, as Senator Ruston well knows, we also had welfare dependency at its lowest in a generation. That is something that we should all be very, very proud of. The strong fiscal position that the government was in at the time enabled us to respond decisively in putting in place a $290 billion economic support package.
In terms now, though, of the government's economic and fiscal strategy, the budget very much does set out the economic recovery strategy that we have, in particular by supporting sustainable, private sector led growth and job creation. We are looking to drive down the unemployment rate lower than precrisis levels. As we know, in terms of workforce participation at this point in time, we still have now, even though we've been through COVID, more Australians in employment than ever before. In fact, the unemployment rate has fallen rapidly and is set to recover five times faster than the last recession, in the 1990s. This is a government that is committed to putting in place the economic framework so that businesses can employ more Australians.
Supporting Australians in regional Australia is something that, on the Liberal and Nationals side of politics, we are very, very proud to do. Certainly the budget that came down on Tuesday night is well and truly supporting regional Australia's economic recovery, helping to create jobs and, more importantly, to grow regional industries. Around 43,000 Australians last year moved from the city to regional Australia because they appreciate the benefits that are afforded to them in regional Australia. The budget that we handed down on Tuesday night is investing, as we know, in infrastructure and in regional infrastructure right across the Northern Territory. This is all about, as Senator McMahon knows, making roads safer and reducing travel times but at the same time supporting more than 900 direct and indirect jobs for Territorians. Again, this is a government that understands putting in place the right policy framework to create more jobs for Australians.
You're right, Senator McMahon. Almost a million people have now returned to work. Those jobs have come back into the economy since the trough of COVID-19, and Australians moving back into the workforce is something that we should be celebrating. The 2020-21 budget is the next stage of the Morrison government's economic plan to secure Australia's recovery. The budget is all about creating jobs—because that's what this government does; we create jobs—guaranteeing the essential services that Australians rely on, and ensuring that we build a more resilient and secure Australia. Certainly we are putting in place the policy framework to do just that. Personal income tax cuts are creating more economic activity, and, when you create more economic activity, what do you do? You actually enable job creation. There are business tax incentives to get businesses to invest in their businesses and to create more jobs. There are new apprenticeships and new training places. Again, this is a government that understands that you put in place the right policy framework so that businesses can prosper, grow and create more jobs for Australians.