Matters of Public Importance - JobKeeper Payments

Before I start, I will give a brief history lesson. It was Labor who suggested to the government that it introduce a wage subsidy, way back in March last year, when the government failed to introduce JobKeeper. That's when the government failed to introduce JobKeeper. It was a Labor, unions and big business idea, and perhaps that explains the risible contribution from the member for Mackellar. You just chip away, and he shows his true self. He hates JobKeeper. He calls it 'enslavement'. The member for Mackellar called this enslavement: a program that has been singularly responsible for saving the livelihoods of millions of Australians and businesses, and the member for Mackellar calls it enslavement. It's an absolute disgrace.

It was Labor who suggested it. The PM didn't want it. He had to be talked into it. The government described the idea at the time as dangerous, but JobKeeper has been vital. It's still vital. This is the great irony. It is still vital for many businesses and many Australians. The pandemic's not over. If the pandemic were over the international borders would be open, but the government's taken the right decision to keep the borders closed. The international borders are closed, but they're closing off JobKeeper at the end of this month. They are consigning hundreds of thousands of Australians—as many as a million Australians, perhaps—to the dole queues.

At the end of January 2021, about 50,000 Tasmanians were either out of work or looking for work, and the state's unemployment rate was 7.9 per cent. Almost 13,000 Tasmanians are currently in receipt of JobKeeper. They're still on it. Many rely on the payment to keep them in work, to keep food on the table, to keep the lights on and to keep a roof over their heads. I shudder to think what happens when JobKeeper comes off at the end of the month. There are businesses that, on the face of it, are doing well—their doors are open, the staff are serving customers—but the customers don't know that the staff are being paid through JobKeeper. When JobKeeper goes off, those businesses, which are struggling to get the business custom through the door that they used to have, are going to have to make decisions: 'What do we do? We can't afford to pay the wages. We haven't recovered the profits yet.' They're going to have to start letting people go. These are very real impacts.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that, at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, 19,000 jobs were lost across Tasmania. A quarter of the jobs lost to COVID are yet to return. They've still not returned. Our recovery in our state from this pandemic is precarious and it is nowhere more precarious than in tourism and hospitality.

As Australians emerge from the deepest, most damaging recession in almost 100 years, there have been some welcome, positive signs in our economy—there's no doubt. The green shoots are emerging. Australians have stuck together and done the right thing by each other, so we can perform much better than many other countries. This credit belongs to all Australians and, particularly, to the state governments, which have led the way. In the absence of real national leadership from this government, it is the state governments, Labor and Liberal, that have led the way in this nation.

On those issues that the federal government's been responsible for, it's fallen over. Issues that the federal government's taken? No good. A vaccination rollout of four million by March? I don't think so. Four million by March? It's not going to happen. That's a federal government responsibility. It's already stalling and it's barely begun. It's already behind schedule.

In my electorate of Lyons, almost 3,000 workers are expected to lose JobKeeper at the end of this month, with $1.3 million a week in support ripped away from our local economies. It's a very uncertain and anxious time for many Australians, particularly with what will happen in the labour market and the economy more broadly. There is uncertainty about the government's plan to cut pay, to cut superannuation and to attack job security. There is uncertainty about people's ongoing job security and what it means for their family finances—their ability to get a loan, for example. This government's addiction to casualisation and contracting out is going to affect people's ability to get a loan and provide for their families. This government is failing the test, with gross incompetence and economic uncertainty.