16 June 2020


I rise this afternoon to also take note of the answers given by Senator Cormann and Senator Ruston to the questions asked today by Senator Wong—as Senator Urquhart referred to earlier—on the topics of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.

It is sad to say that the answers that we’ve received from the government frontbench and backbench today were simply not good enough. They were not good enough for Australians—not good enough for those who are living pay cheque to pay cheque and, in some cases, those who are simply running out of money in their bank accounts.

In homes right across our country, people are feeling confused and uncertain about their future. But that’s hardly a surprise, given that they have been experiencing this uncertainty now for seven years under the coalition government.

Labor did support the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments legislation, but we did so on the understanding that government would also come to the table in good faith, that they would also review elements as things progressed and as the situation with respect to the coronavirus changed.

That simply has not been the case. This program, so far, has been poorly implemented, and it’s left millions of people—millions of Australian workers, taxpayers—without any support. They are casual workers, people who work in retail, hospitality, fast food, warehousing and many other places, and, as we heard from Senator Sterle earlier, those workers at Dnata.

All they want is the same support that their fellow Australians are receiving right now. They’re not after much; they just want help. They need help so that they too can pay their bills, put food on the table and have the heater on at home.

But now millions of Australians are just a few pay packets away from losing that support, and for tens of thousands of others—particularly those in the childhood education sector—the end of JobKeeper is less than one month away. This is despite the government promising on multiple occasions that they would look after them. It’s simply not the case.

Now we have 2.3 million more Australians who are on support payments offered by government. But this government is still proposing to slash these payments in half, leaving them around $550 a fortnight worse off.

Ripping back the support of JobKeeper and JobSeeker will do untold damage, not just to many Australians at home but to our economy. It just does not make any sense.

Austerity does not work, and yet this government seems to be hell-bent on making sure that the fiscal bottom line of the budget is in order rather than the home and household budgets of Australian families.

Yesterday, in the other place, the Prime Minister acknowledged that winding back JobKeeper will see more job losses.

Support for Australians and Australian jobs is what will make our economy continue to tick over and function, and get our recovery back on track.

I am deeply concerned about what will happen to my home state of Victoria after September. There are enormous numbers of people who will be left behind by this government, and Senator Wong simply wanted a very straight answer from Senator Cormann to the question, ‘What is the government’s plan post September?’

This is so we can give Australians certainty—certainty so that they can plan their household budgets. They’re not just something that gets switched on or off at the flick of a switch.

We need to give people notice, and the respect that they deserve, so that they can start planning for their futures. Do they need to start looking for other work or increasing their hours? They need to make the tough decisions so that they can support their families post September.

We don’t need more announcements, press conferences or media doorstops. We just need the government to come to the table and say that they will do the right thing and support Australians and Australian jobs.