Oct 19, 2020

BUSINESS – Rearrangement – Monday, 19 October 2020

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the Opposition) (15:23): This is a government led by a marketing guy who spends more time working out what the slogan will be for any particular program than he does on how it will actually operate. I was actually surprised today that the childcare package he put together also had a slogan for a title—of course. During this program we’ve seen JobMaker, JobSeeker, JobTrainer, JobKeeper—they just roll off. They spend so much time on it, but what they didn’t spend time on earlier this year was thinking through the fact that, if they doubled it Newstart without wage subsidies, they would send a signal to business that people could be laid off and the safety net would be there. So what happened? The queues formed outside Centrelink offices right around the country. At a time when Labor had put forward support for wage subsidies, they were opposed by this Prime Minister. This Prime Minister and this government said that they weren’t necessary.


In the lead-up to today, I was at a childcare centre with the shadow minister and the member for Bean this morning, and again I was asked: ‘Is Labor going to hold up this legislation?’ and I thought to myself, because I’d looked at the blue, ‘They haven’t even listed it for debate. So how do we hold something up that hasn’t been listed?’ I also pointed towards the fact that we have been constructive throughout this. We haven’t held up any of their legislation, in spite of the fact that there were huge gaps in the wage subsidy program: for casuals, for university workers, for people in the arts and entertainment sector and for people at specific companies like dnata. We pointed out those flaws. But we didn’t block their bills. We pointed out the flaws: that some people were earning more than they used to, at the same time as a single mum with a couple of kids, working in a casual job for 11 months, got nothing—got left behind. We pointed out that the superannuation changes would be abused and would lead to people being left with less income in retirement and being forced into circumstances whereby, as a result of that, there would be a greater burden on future budgets. On their so-called HomeBuilder program, we pointed out the weaknesses that were there. We pointed out that they should be investing in social housing. But we didn’t block it.


Here we are pointing out not that we have a problem with young people getting subsidies, but that we’ve asked questions over details, as is appropriate—including whether an older worker aged 36 could lose their job, to be replaced by someone aged 34 with a wage subsidy. We’ve asked about those circumstances, and the government haven’t had any answers.


We have pointed out that, in past recessions, it has been workers over the age of 35 who’ve often found themselves unemployed, not for a week or a month or a year but for the rest of their lives—forgotten; left behind. And we’ve pointed out that the government needs to have a plan for those aged 35. The government’s responded that, if you’re over 50, they have a plan. Yes, they do have a program—they have a program in which 40 per cent of participants have found themselves unemployed six months after they’ve participated in that scheme, and we’ve pointed out that flaw that’s there for older workers.


We have been constructive the whole way through. And that contrasts with what they did during the global financial crisis, when they sat on these opposition benches here and had more than 30 divisions, till 3 am, trying to block support for economic stimulus and jobs. That’s what they did.


This Prime Minister sat there looking at his phone while the budget reply was on, not looking up once, thinking, ‘Oh, can I move he be no longer heard?’ which is their standard. They don’t want to hear any proper debate. So the reason this should be adopted is: let’s have a debate about this. We’re not blockers. We’re constructive. They’re the wreckers in Australian politics. They’re the great dividers. Their only vision is division. They seek to divide the country, time and time again. And here we are exposing their stunt. They’ll roll over here. They’ll support this suspension, because they know that their position, and what the Prime Minister’s office have briefed out, has no credibility. (Time expired)