Consideration in Detail - Economic Supports

By Matt Keogh MP

09 November 2020

Just last week the Reserve Bank was forced to enact some of the most radical programs in its history in response to the Morrison government's premature cuts to vital economic supports like JobKeeper during the worst recession in many, many, many decades. Those cuts by this government really position it as the Christmas Grinch, because—after cutting the rate of JobKeeper only a few weeks ago—when we get to the end of this year they will be cutting the rate of JobKeeper yet again, and that's on top of the cuts that will be coming to JobSeeker at the end of the year as well. For those 160,000 Australians that the government anticipates will join the jobless queues between now and Christmas that rate of JobSeeker will go back to the original rate of $40 a day. That's how Grinch-like this government is. Australians that are relying on these supports from government in their desperate time of need, during this recession, need that support, not just the Australians receiving those welfare payments, but the businesses that rely on them spending those dollars.

This is the story that I have heard time and time again around my community and around Australia in my discussions with small business owners, that their concern is not just about the withdrawal of support in terms of reductions of JobKeeper for their own businesses, but also the way in which people will not be in a position to spend money in their business because of the cuts that this government is applying both to JobKeeper and to JobSeeker.

The government has missed a huge opportunity in its budget to deliver certainty for Australians that are reliant on JobSeeker, as well as the small businesses and the workers in those businesses that are reliant on JobKeeper. For the government to go around and say that it's okay to cut the rate of JobKeeper, because businesses are now facing better economic climate—firstly, tell that to the businesses of Victoria who have only just come out of lockdown. But more to the point, the condition for qualifying for JobKeeper is that you've had a 30 per cent reduction in turnover. If you've still got the reduction in your revenue then surely you still need the same rate of JobKeeper that was previously announced, and that's not even getting to those huge swathes of employees—casuals, local government, so many areas—that missed out on JobKeeper altogether under this government.

The thing about JobSeeker, where the government has failed to give any certainty to those who rely on it—and they don't rely on it because they want it; they rely on it because they've been unfortunate enough to lose a job during this recession. Those people are relying on such a small amount of money that even the BCA, Ai Group, COSBOA, ACOSS and ACTU all agree that the rate that was Newstart, that is now JobSeeker, needs to be increased, that it needs to be permanently increased, because they understand the economic effect of the current substandard low rate of JobSeeker that the government is proposing will be returned to for Australians who are still unemployed. We have more than 10 people looking for a job for every job that is available in this country, but the government feels it is okay to revert to the below-poverty standard for the JobSeeker rate. It makes no sense for the government to be withdrawing these levels of support, not just for individuals, but to our economy across the board. Economic support needs to be tailored to economic conditions. That may sound familiar to the government, but we don't know what things will look like in March next year. We certainly didn't know in March this year how the economy would be going. Yet the government has said it will give no commitment around maintaining that rate of JobSeeker going forward.

The Prime Minister said in the parliament only a few weeks ago that if you're good at your job you'll get a job—which implies that those who are out of work are not good at their job. Not only is that an insult to working Australians across this nation and those that are now out of work, but how can it possibly be true when the Prime Minister is still in his job?