15 Feb | '2021

Well, Labor really are struggling to be relevant as an opposition at the moment, and that’s never clearer than when they talk about JobKeeper. In fact, they love to say it was their idea—when it suits them, of course. The truth is that on the other side of the House they are huge fans of JobKeeper, because Australians are big fans of JobKeeper. As Labor members talk to their constituents, they are having conversations about JobKeeper that are very similar to the ones government members on this side of the chamber are having.

JobKeeper was fast, it was effective and it was very welcome, particularly in my electorate of Moncrieff. It was understood to be a temporary measure because of its huge scale and the risks to the economy of prolonging it, and those on the other side know that. Only last week, when the Minister for Tourism, Trade and Investment joined me in Moncrieff, on the Gold Coast, the conversations with local tourism operators reflected that reality: that business operators indeed accept that the government must adjust its economic measures as the situation evolves, and they said so loudly. Every one of them thanked the government for their JobKeeper lifeline. It’s commendable that the member for Fenner is making an effort to be constructive on JobKeeper—and I note that he’s now left the chamber. However, no program of this scale—rapidly implemented, as was necessary—could have achieved perfection. I’m also not sure that he’ll achieve very much from this temporary measure when the real issue is: what is our next changing economic circumstance, and will we manage it?

Let’s be clear on some points. JobKeeper was always a temporary program that needed to taper off with the improvement of our economy, for two very good reasons: (1) to not jeopardise the very recovery it’s designed to bridge and (2) because it would be irresponsible to not limit the program to its necessary levels, given the potential debt burden for the next generation. I note that those on the other side grin. They grin in agreeance, of course.

The evidence that the recovery is underway is very clear, with over 785 jobs created over the past seven months. Fewer businesses and their employees are in need of JobKeeper and other temporary economic support. On the Gold Coast there has been a 59 per cent reduction in the number of people on JobKeeper—in one of the worst-affected regions. This job creation over the past seven months means that fewer businesses and their employees are in need of JobKeeper and other temporary economic supports. The Treasurer has always been clear on this issue. He said:

Based on what we know today, there should be no expectation that JobKeeper will extend beyond the end of March. It was always a temporary program.

In Moncrieff, the government’s other stimulus measures have also been very effective in protecting jobs, keeping businesses in business and of course keeping those doors open—absolutely. Over $200 million in personal income taxes has gone into Moncrieff. There have been business investment incentives, the JobMaker Hiring Credit and the HomeBuilder program, and they’ve all assisted the local economy. In fact, I think there was around $28 billion in support from the federal government to the Gold Coast alone across the five electorates.

The Morrison government has delivered the tremendous support that Australians have needed: $267 billion in direct economic and health support. Of the $251 billion in direct economic support, around $148 billion has already flowed to Australian households and businesses. The JobKeeper payment has provided $83 billion of support to businesses and their employees since the start of the pandemic to date. This has kept businesses in business and Australians in those all-important jobs.

It’s clear in Moncrieff and at the national level that the economic circumstances of families and businesses vary quite dramatically, depending on industry, location, business model and exposure to ongoing uncertainties like state government border closures. That’s why I’m very focused, now and in the future, on the government tailoring further measures as required. In Broadbeach in the last week we had one of the Gold Coast’s largest employers, Atlas Staff, hosting a round table with the Minister for Trade and Tourism with stakeholders from the tourism and events industry and local ministers Andrews and Robert. I organised the round table because the Minister for Trade and Tourism knows, as I do, that supporting an industry starts with listening to it.

Certainty and confidence were the two main points that came out of that round table—certainty and confidence. That means better management of outbreaks by state governments and more stability on border conditions. That means tourists are able to move freely, with confidence, between states. That’s what we need in Moncrieff and that’s what we need on the Gold Coast.

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