Jul 18, 2020







SUBJECTS: Cancellation of August Parliamentary sitting weeks; economic statement.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Last night, the Prime Minister called me to inform me of his decision to write to the Speaker on the basis of the advice from the Chief Medical Officer and cancel the fortnight Parliamentary sitting that was scheduled for August. That decision by the Prime Minister is one that we accept, the decision that he’s made and we have received a copy of the advice from the Chief Medical Officer.


Labor has always said that we need to follow the advice by the health experts. When it comes to this sitting though, it is problematic. Because Labor has also always argued that the Government needs to be held to account, particularly because of the uncertainty that remains with JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Had the Government made its decision clear to the public before this announcement, then people would have been able to have a view as to whether the changes that will be made and announced this Thursday are up to scratch or not.


Up to this point, there’s three million Australians who remain uncertain as to whether support will be given to their job past September. There are small businesses who remain in uncertain territory, unsure of whether they will continue to have support. And JobSeeker, under the current legislation, runs out and reverts to the old $40 a day level come September unless legislation is changed. So we believe it’s absolutely critical that the Parliament sit in September, and we expect to be consulted much further in advance from any decision being made than what’s occurred with these circumstances.


We do note the contradiction which is there between the Prime Minister calling upon states to open up, businesses to open up, and what is happening here with the shutting down of our National Parliament. The National Parliament is there to provide scrutiny, and parliaments throughout the world are, of course, sitting, including during this difficult period. And Labor remains prepared to be cooperative and, indeed, we were proposing that there be a reduced number of people, including a reduced number of MPs from Victoria, able to participate in the upcoming Parliamentary sitting.


But with that fortnight going as well, we want to ensure that there is scrutiny there. So we will be asking that there be additional Senate Estimates processes included in the coming period. We’ll also be convening additional meetings of the COVID Committee, established because of Labor’s demands, chaired by Senator Katy Gallagher, to hold the Government to account. That will be particularly important in the wake of Thursday’s economic update.


And we also expect that Thursday’s economic update will be full and comprehensive. That will include four-year estimates figures going forward, as has always been provided in budgets and budget updates. We think this is a critical period. We are all in this together. And every Australian has responsibilities. But the National Government, as well as the National Opposition, have a particular responsibility to ensure that there’s oversight. To ensure that there’s transparency about government decision making. Because it makes a real difference to people’s lives. A real difference to their health. A real difference to whether they have a job or not. A real difference to the income support that they receive. And we expect that that will happen.


Happy to take questions if there are any. If that’s it, done.


I might just add one thing, which is that the Government has said, and Scott Morrison has said, that the economy would just “snap back” in September. What we need to do is to make sure that we recognise that the Government here is saying that it’s not business as usual, that things won’t just snap back, and that’s another reason why JobKeeper needs to continue for those who need it, and JobSeeker needs to continue to provide support at the current time for people in need. A snapback will just snap our economy.


And Thursday’s statement needs to be comprehensive and needs to provide that ongoing support, because the Government, with this decision by the Prime Minister to cancel the Parliament, is saying, himself, that it’s not business as usual. Well, if it’s not business as usual for the Parliament of Australia, it certainly isn’t business as usual for those small businesses relying upon JobKeeper and those people who are maintaining a work relationship and an income as a result of JobKeeper.