November 12, 2020

My question is so the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister—an assistant minister representing a Prime Minister without a credible plan to power Australia's economy out of recession. This Morrison recession is the first recession in Australia in nearly 30 years, and it is the worst recession since the 1920s. The Morrison recession has cost hundreds of thousands of Australians their jobs. It has shattered the living standards and hopes of millions of Australians. It risks consigning a generation of young people to years of unemployment and underemployment. And it risks assigning a large cohort of mature workers to uncertainty about whether and when their jobs are coming back.

The Morrison recession is Australia's most urgent economic challenge in living memory. It is a recession which was precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic but is a recession which has been exacerbated by the policy failures of the Morrison government. The recession is deeper because this government ignored the economic warning signs during 2019, and the recession risks being longer because the Prime Minister has no plan for jobs, no plan for growth and no plan for the challenges of the future—challenges like climate change, the impact of technological change on the workforce, the need to boost productivity and the need to tackle rising inequality. They have no agenda for economic recovery and they have no agenda for building a better Australia. The reason they have no plan is because this is a Prime Minister obsessed with marketing slogans and politics—a Prime Minister always there for the photo op but never there for the follow-up, moving on from one marketing slogan to the next, never delivering and always leaving too many ordinary Australians behind.

The government has just delivered a budget that racks up a trillion dollars of debt. But, for all the spending and all the debt, the budget will not create the jobs Australians need. On the latest ABS data, the unemployment rate is 6.9 per cent—and we know the effective unemployment rate is closer to 10 per cent. On this government's settings, unemployment will be too high for too long. Another 160,000 Australians will be added to the ranks of the jobless by the end of the year. We have 2.6 million Australians right now who are either out of work or desperately need more hours in the job they have. The jobless rate won't get back to pre-recession levels for more than four years. Budget forecasts have the official unemployment rate still at 6.5 per cent in June 2022 and 5.5 per cent in June 2024. Treasury's modelling shows economic slack will continue over the next five years, with GDP below its potential until 2025.

This is a national jobs crisis which the government is failing to address. By contrast, the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has laid out a plan to make this generational crisis the start of a new era of prosperity and fairness. It's a plan that's about creating the jobs we need today and training our people for the jobs of the future, making quality child care a right for all families, easing pressure on living standards and giving women more opportunities in the workforce, rebuilding Australia's manufacturing sector, creating jobs and opportunities for skilled workers and powering our economic recovery with investment in clean energy and new electricity transmission infrastructure. The contrast is clear. Labor has presented a plan that puts jobs first and the future first. The coalition is withdrawing support for jobs and just telling Australians hit by the recession to suck it up and wait for the economy to get back to normal in four or five years time.

Never in the history of the Commonwealth has so much money been spent for so little impact as it has been by this government. Look at what they're doing right now. They're removing JobMaker and JobSeeker. The cuts in September have cost my electorate deeply. We've seen 17,000 recipients of JobKeeper have their payment cut and 20,000 recipients of JobSeeker have their assistance cut. The fortnightly hit to the electorate of Shortland is $22 million. Just imagine that for a minute—$22 million taken out of the Shortland economy every two weeks, money that is urgently needed by my businesses to keep those businesses afloat. This is a government that is removing assistance at exactly the point when we need that money. This is a government without a plan to rebuild Australia, without a plan to rebuild our economy. It's all about a plan to win the next day's headlines. It's all about a plan of spin and marketing by a Prime Minister who is all photo op and no follow-through. My question to the assistant minister is: with a country in economic crisis, with hundreds of thousands of Australians having lost their jobs, why is the Prime Minister more interested in marketing slogans than in bringing forward an agenda to drive jobs and growth?