Passing JobKeeper to support Australians

08 Apr 2020 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby—Government Whip) (12:43): As the Prime Minister has often said in the difficult weeks we have recently faced, everyone who currently has a job is an essential worker. Everyone who can continue to work, whether that's from their usual workplace or from their home, is an essential worker because they are the people who are keeping our economy going. They are the people who are providing the services other Australians need in these most difficult of times, and they are doing so despite the very great health and economic challenges our nation faces.

Today we will debate and we will pass these historic bills, the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments And Benefits) Bill 2020 and related bills, so that the Morrison government can support the businesses and the employees who have had their lives and their livelihoods so severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Today we will pass our $130 billion JobKeeper economic package—the largest in our nation's history —to enable eligible businesses to pay eligible employees $1,500 a fortnight so that those businesses and their employees can make it through this unprecedented health and economic crisis. Today we will take another step to ensure our nation survives these most difficult of times that are as bad and unpredictable as any war or previous pandemic.

On behalf of my community, I want to thank the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the health minister, other ministers, their staff and departmental officials for all they are doing to support the Australian people. I also want to thank all of my fellow members of parliament and their staff, including my own, for the wonderful support they are providing to the many people who have contacted us in various states of worry and distress. The relief and gratitude expressed to me by my local businesses and their staff in response to the JobKeeper package have been incredibly moving. I've had business owners tell me they cried every day the week before the announcement because of the fear and worry they had for their business and for their staff, who they had stood down, but that following the announcement of the JobKeeper package they were filled with hope and with the knowledge that they and their staff could now come through this together. So many businesses have re-employed their staff as quickly as they could, and employees have quickly returned to work.

I know this is a terribly difficult time for so many Australians, especially for businesses who have been instructed to close. I know it is so very hard for businesses and employees who have lost so much income and will continue to do so. But the results we are seeing so far in Australia, in terms of containing the spread of this deadly virus that has no cure and that has already taken too many lives, here and more particularly abroad, show that the difficult decisions we have made as a government and that the states and territories have made with us are having the effect that we wanted and needed for the safety of all Australians.

For the very serious sacrifices that Australians are making every single day, and that those in my local community are making every single day, I say thank you. Thank you to our businesses and employees who
have so courageously coped with the trauma of sudden closures, loss of customers, loss of income and loss of employment. Thank you to our healthcare workers—in hospitals and doctor's surgeries, in frontline health service delivery and, of course, in aged care—for the care they are giving to those whose lives are in danger; by doing so, they are risking their own lives. Thank you to our retail workers, our supermarket staff, our farmers and our food and goods manufacturers for providing essential products. Thank you to our school principals and their staff for continuing to teach our students when so many others around them have been working from home. Thank you to everyone who has contacted my office to express their support and concern for those most at risk, for their friends and neighbours, for the Prime Minister, for ministers, for me and for my staff. Thank you to everyone who is supporting our local businesses by shopping online or ordering takeaway to keep those businesses going.

Thank you to everyone who is making sacrifices for the safety of others. Thank you to those who are staying home, to those who are practising social distancing when they leave the house, to those undergoing self-isolation in hotel rooms in other cities before they can return home and to those voluntarily self-isolating after travelling from interstate, as I have been doing for the last 14 days, since we last sat in parliament, and as I will be doing for the next 14 days, when I return home to my electorate of Boothby. And thank you to all those who will stay home this Easter, instead of going to their favourite holiday spots, so they can limit the spread of this deadly virus. There are so many small ways we can do our part. We will all need to do our small part and our big part once we pass through the worst of this pandemic to get our economy back on track, and that is the foundation these bills provide today.