Economic Support and Our Comeback
16 Mar | '2021
If my ears don’t deceive me, the member for Kingsford Smith just said in this chamber that all people on welfare are cheats. They were the words that came out of his mouth. He used negative words to describe jobseekers; they came out of his mouth. He used his own words to describe those people who need extra support during this pandemic, and I won’t repeat them in this chamber. I think it’s disgraceful that that’s the way he described those people who need a bit of extra support. The member just mentioned hippies. I ask the question: what’s wrong with hippies having a good time? There’s nothing wrong with that, in my view.
Australians have always understood that social safety nets are necessary, and this pandemic has reminded us that a large proportion of our population are vulnerable to economic shocks. Australians know that welfare is at its best when it helps people get back on their own feet and avoid disincentives to work when it’s available and people are able to work. The government’s suite of temporary measures have been successful in supporting Australians through the significant impact of this pandemic. When we think about the coronavirus supplements and how much they’ve helped people get on and stay on their feet, it’s been a very important supplement. Of course, it was a temporary measure by the Morrison government to help people through this very difficult time of the pandemic. This is not to mention the $86 billion worth of JobKeeper that went into Queensland alone to help the local economy, which of course will also help those people who are on JobSeeker once the economy starts to kick in again. Confidence is starting to return to our economy as restrictions are relaxed, and, of course, the end of border closures have had a lot to do with that confidence. My community tell me that confidence is the most important issue right now, particularly on the Gold Coast, where tourism is so important.
I also mention the $1.2 billion tourism package that the Morrison government has delivered to 15 destinations across our great country to stimulate the economy after JobKeeper is stepped down at the end of the month. I commend them for listening to the Gold Coast community and the tourism community around Australia, particularly in Queensland, a tourism state, and for delivering that package pretty much within a month of the roundtable that I held on the Gold Coast.
We are a government that has always understood that a job is the best economic support for individuals and for families. The best form of welfare is a job; we say it time and time again. It is the truth. To sustain oneself and one’s family through work is meaningful in people’s lives. There are people in our community who need extra help to get to that point, and that’s what the Morrison government is delivering. We’re now moving away from emergency settings that were necessary for the twin economic and health crises towards more sustainable settings that support recovery and are more sustainable in the long term. The safety net settings need to match our circumstances so they do not hamper our recovery and are fiscally responsible in the long term. Australians understand that. Reasonable, good Australians around our country understand that these measures are temporary and targeted.
The Morrison government is moving from broad emergency support to a sustainable safety net and targeted industry support, as I just outlined. Some key changes to Australia’s safety net include that unemployed Australians will be supported whilst strengthening their obligations to search for work and that, from 1 April this year, 1.95 million Australians will receive an extra $50 fortnight in support from the government. This will include those who receive the JobSeeker payment; youth allowance; Austudy; the parenting payment, single and partnered; Abstudy living allowance; partner allowance; widow allowance; farm household allowance, which is very important for the regions; and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs education schemes, which, of course, honours our veterans community. For single people on the JobSeeker payment without children, this will see the current payment rate increase from $565.70 a fortnight to $620.80 a fortnight from 1 April, taking into account indexation on 20 March—and, of course, indexation will continue. Payments are indexed regularly, and that will continue to keep up with CPI.
The income-free area will permanently increase for JobSeeker and related payments to $150 a fortnight. This allows those receiving income support to keep more of what they earn. That is a key pillar to this side of the chamber. That is what liberal democracies are all about, and that is what the Morrison government is about when it comes to tax cuts.
The waiver of the ordinary waiting period eligibility will be expanded for those required to self-isolate and will be extended for a further three months until 30 June 2021. That will assist during this period when we’re rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to note that not since 1986—I think I’d just finished high school at that point—have unemployment benefits been raised this much year on year. This is quite a raise and hasn’t been done for some years. The total cost is $9 billion to support our national safety net for Australians that need that extra support right now. That $9 billion figure is across the forward estimates. It equates to approximately a 10 per cent increase in the typical annual spend on JobSeeker. This is a continuation of the Morrison government giving Australians the support that they need. The Morrison government stands behind those Australians who need extra support, first from the shock of the pandemic and now through our recovery phase.
Since the start of the pandemic, around $33 billion in emergency payments—that’s quite a lot, isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?—will have been injected into Australia’s welfare system by the end of March. Measures such as the coronavirus supplement and four economic support payments, which have been very important for Moncrieff and my dad in South Australia—he’s a pensioner, he’s received the extra payments and he tells me that it it’s helped him immensely during this period—are all examples of the action that we have taken as a government since COVID-19 hit.
Australians’ sense of fairness includes a sensible balancing act between those who need support and those who fund the support, so there are two sides to it. The $50 increase in the rate of payments was carefully chosen. There were many considerations that I know that the minister for social services and the department looked at: balancing support, incentives, sustainability and the minimum wage, which has been growing at a rate faster than unemployment benefits. We’ve pushed up the base rate to 41.2 per cent of the national minimum wage so that it’s now at the level it was during the early 2000s under Prime Minister Howard. Avoiding Labor’s mistakes, such as changing the pension rate but leaving unemployed Australians behind, which is what they did, the JobSeeker base rate will now rise to be 72 per cent of the age pension. The Morrison government, as I said, has the back of all Australians.
The tax burden on Australians for the social security safety net must be sustainable long into the future. We are making sure that a job is always better than welfare by ensuring that $50-a-fortnight support payments for working age recipients will cease to be payable before reaching the minimum wage. It’s important to note the support I’ve been outlining dovetails with significant other support measures. In fact, 99 per cent of people on working age payments receive additional supplements, and those include around 20 different supplementary payments that are targeted to people based on their individual circumstances. Here are a couple of examples: the energy supplement, Commonwealth rent assistance—very important for those people who need extra help—family tax benefit, remote area allowance, telephone allowance and the education entry payment—and there are many others that allow the government to tailor the support that’s needed for those Australians who need extra support.
The best support of all, of course, is our economic recovery across our great nation. All Australians stand to directly benefit, and more people in jobs means a more sustainable safety net. More people come off JobSeeker and go back into the workforce, so there are more jobs in the market. Therefore, there are fewer people relying on JobSeeker and the supplements, so our economy and our overall JobSeeker bill are far more sustainable for the country.
The Morrison government is delivering our economic comeback in unison with hardworking people—those in Moncrieff and those all around Australia. We’re putting more in the pockets of everyday Australians by lowering taxes. In Moncrieff alone there were $200 million worth of tax cuts just to about 100,000 people, I want to say—I’ll say it was below that level, just to be safe. Perhaps it’s 70,000 people in my electorate, but it’s worth about $200 million of tax cuts. Of course those tax cuts go back into the economy. They go back out into small business and come back to the families that actually put them there in the first place, which is the beauty of a circular economy. Supporting job creation, delivering more training, evolving a more digital Australia, making it easier for businesses to run, providing tax concessions and business incentives, providing more economic security for women, supporting Australian industries: these are all supports that the Morrison government has put in place.
Some of the support measures are supporting business. I’ve got about 30,000 businesses in my electorate of Moncrieff, and the recent $1.2 billion tourism stimulus package that I outlined before is going to help our economy tremendously in its comeback. The JobMaker hiring credit is going to help. The offset of tax losses against previous profits and tax paid in or after 2018-19 will certainly help, as will temporary full expensing of eligible depreciable assets for businesses with a turnover of up to $5 million—and that’s pretty much most businesses I would imagine—and supporting 11,400 companies by increasing R&D tax offsets. The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy is already supporting 900 apprenticeships in Moncrieff, and its expansion is expected to support hundreds more, which is good news for businesses wanting to hire apprentices.
We are accelerating reforms and investments to enable greater adoption of digital technologies, and we’re investing an additional $4.5 billion in the NBN to bring ultrafast broadband to millions of businesses around the country, as well as streamlining and digitising regulatory processes, which will save businesses time and money. Time is money in business, as we know, so that’s certainly helping. We are removing barriers to exports to make it easier for Australian businesses to access international markets. That’s very important for our recovery, as trade and tourism will be key moving forward. We’re removing unnecessary barriers to the flow of credit so that consumers can continue to spend and so that businesses can invest and create jobs. We’ve heard about some of the changes to SME loans from the Treasurer just in the last week. We are supporting up to $40 billion in lending to SMEs through those guarantees. That’s the area I’m talking about that will help those businesses. They can borrow up to $5 million with a two-year no-payment period, which is fantastic.
Many Australians will retain jobs and many Australians on JobSeeker will find jobs due to the government investing in infrastructure, which creates jobs. I’ll just say a little bit about infrastructure and what a great champion of regional Australia the Deputy Prime Minister is. He’s been up to the Gold Coast four or five times since I’ve been elected, helping and making announcements around the M1 and around light rail. There’s $110 billion being spent on infrastructure by this government. This government is spending $110 billion over 10 years on infrastructure that is so important to the Gold Coast, and it’s also important to jobs. Jobs—
Opposition members interjecting—
Well, he’s up on the Gold Coast, the Deputy Prime Minister, making jobs for Gold Coasters, just like he does all around the country, with $110 billion worth of infrastructure. He is a great champion of infrastructure, and he’s in good company with me about the importance of infrastructure because I absolutely believe in the importance of infrastructure and the jobs that it brings. In the private sector on the Gold Coast, they say that the Deputy Prime Minister is spot on. In my discussions with Geoff Hogg, the head honcho at The Star, he emphasised the importance of transport links to the tourism industry. He’s absolutely right. We need to be able to transport as many tourists as possible from around the world to the Gold Coast once we recover properly from this pandemic, so that they can enjoy our beautiful beaches and our beautiful accommodation providers and restaurants all over the Gold Coast. So I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his support around infrastructure. (Time expired)