Monday, 23 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Liberal and National government's economic plan and the National Plan to Transition Australia's National COVID-19 Response, agreed by national cabinet, will help to chart our economic recovery from the pandemic?
Senator Watt interjecting—
I thank Senator Bragg for the question. The Morrison government is committed to putting in place those policies that will help employers out there create jobs across our nation. In terms of the beginning of COVID-19, as my colleagues know, we entered COVID-19 with a strong labour market. In fact, around 1.6 million jobs had been created since we were first elected to govern. We also had the lowest welfare dependency in 30 years. By providing employers and businesses with the economic framework to lever off, we enabled them to prosper, to grow and to do what we needed them to do, and that was, of course, to create more job opportunities for Australians.
We also know, though, that COVID-19 has changed so much of this. We are still dealing with it, and we are still dealing with the lockdowns that are affecting millions of Australians, in both their jobs and their employers across our country. We also know that the road ahead will be a long road. It will be a hard road and it will be a bumpy road. However, what we have seen is that the Australian labour force has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience. In particular, when we look at the latest figures, which show this, unemployment in Australia fell from 4.9 per cent to 4.6 per cent recently, with the creation of 2,200 jobs.
As a government, we've worked with the states and territories and together we've chartered a plan out of this pandemic. As a government, we continue to provide the support—in particular, the economic supports—that will help both businesses and Australians get to the other side. In terms of our economy, we continue to be in a stronger position to recover than we were a year ago, and we will continue to work with states and territories to plan our path out.
The government have provided unprecedented support, as we should, to both Australians and Australian businesses since the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic. We've now provided over $300 billion in direct health and economic support. Much of that support, as we know, was aimed at keeping Australian businesses operating and keeping Australians in jobs. But, as the outbreaks that we are currently seeing illustrate, Australia and Australians are not out of the woods yet. The Morrison government continues to work with the states and territories to assist their businesses and to support their staff who are impacted by COVID-19. We've expanded Queensland's COVID-19 business support grants to $600 million. We've provided $12.5 million for NT businesses. We've increased support for Victorian businesses to over $800 million. Again, we will continue to provide the support that Australians need.
As we know, the best way for each and every one of us to help small businesses in particular, and to ensure our businesses can stay open and to ensure that Australians can get back to work, is to get vaccinated. As more and more Australians get vaccinated, what we'll do is rob the virus of its potency and its power to disrupt our lives. It's really pleasing to see more and more Australians every single day putting their arms out and getting vaccinated. When we look at those vaccination rates, we went from 15 million doses to 16 million doses in five days, and we went from 16 million doses to 17 million doses in an even smaller period of time. That is what each and every one of us needs to do. Certainly, on those figures there are positive signs that Australians are taking up the opportunity and that they do see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Senator Watt interjecting—