Nov 11, 2020

BILLS – Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill 2020 – Consideration of Senate Message – Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (09:34): Last night Labor, along with many of the crossbench, voted to support amendments to the Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill 2020. The fact is that there are currently 937,000 people unemployed in this country and more than 1½ million who are underemployed. Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 200,000 people have simply given up looking for work. So we supported the bill last night. It’s important to recognise that this bill will see payments not commence until February, so the government has time to really think these issues through. They need to think it through because they’ve got some measures wrong. Unless the government supports the amendments, particularly about displaced workers, then what we could see is someone over the age of 35—they happen to be 37 or they happen to be 40—displaced, sacked from their work, replaced by a labour hire company or replaced by a younger person because the company will have an incentive to do that because they will get a financial incentive of either $200 or $100.


We put forward practical amendments on this legislation, as we have done consistently on all of the measures that have been put forward through this parliament. We have voted for every package and we voted for this last night. But I say to the government: if this legislation is seriously about additional employment rather than about replacing existing workers, they have to support this amendment. If they are at all fair dinkum about additional work, they have to support this amendment. This amendment was supported—I’ve got to say, it’s not always that you have Labor, the Greens political party, One Nation, South Australian Independent Rex Patrick and others all voting in the one direction. When you’ve got the Greens party and One Nation voting together, it might give you pause for thought. The fact is that Labor will not tolerate a circumstance whereby workers who are aged over 35 get done over as a result of legislation passed by this parliament.


What we know about recessions past is that when recessions occur we quite often see older workers displaced, never to work again. We’ve seen that too many times in the past. It’s totally unacceptable that we have legislation presented that would allow that to happen because of the recession. But this is something different; this is about this government, this parliament, providing an incentive to sack older workers and have them replaced. Surely that’s unacceptable. The Senate agreed to this amendment, so it should be the case that the government just think about it.


How many times have we seen this government have to move amendments to its own legislation, including on legislation related to the response to the pandemic and the recession, because it got the detail wrong? Well, they’ve got the detail wrong. I don’t believe that the minister here at the table thinks that it’s fair that a 37-year-old should get the sack and be replaced by someone younger because there’s an incentive in the legislation to do so. If they say it just can’t happen, then they should just accept the amendment—that’s the point here—if they are at all fair dinkum.


The legislation is called JobMaker. (Extension of time granted)


It is supposed to be about creating new jobs. Labor is for new jobs. What we’re not for is sacking older workers. It’s as simple as that. I say to the minister and to the government: this isn’t a political issue; this is about job security. Without Labor’s amendments that we are supporting here along with the crossbenches, the legislation will take away the livelihoods of Australians who are fortunate to have jobs during this recession. It is a threat. It is a threat to working families. Job security is absolutely critical yet this legislation creates job insecurity.


We know that many older workers are precisely the people who are supporting children and teenagers to go through school. The average age of a first-time mother has now reached above the age of 30. So when we are talking about the people impacted by this legislation we are talking about working families who are doing it tough—and that’s why we should fix this.


The government’s draft rules are out for consultation until 27 November. Payments from the scheme don’t flow until February next year, so they have time to fix it. We’re not holding anything up here. What we’re doing is trying to fix it in the interests of working families. The government should support these amendments, just as the Senate did overwhelmingly last night.