TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
Since COVID-19 hit Australia, Labor has played a vital role in ensuring people get the help they desperately need.
It was Labor that first advocated wage subsidies for Australian workers. We’re pleased that the Government eventually listened to us – as well as advice from unions, the business community, economists and other experts. Keeping people connected to the workforce is a necessary first step in minimising the lockdown’s economic fallout.
We were, however, disappointed in how long the Government took to announce JobKeeper, allowing thousands of workers to lose their jobs in the meantime. With more urgency, we could have avoided the awful scenes outside Centrelink offices – scenes reminiscent of the Great Depression.
We remain concerned that the scheme does not go far enough in providing desperately needed support for Australian workers and businesses trying to stay afloat.
We will continue to stand up for the many Australians missing out on JobKeeper payments – casuals, freelancers, temporary migrants, NDIS workers, local government employees, charity workers, teachers, university staff, and childcare workers. The Treasurer can include all of these workers in JobKeeper with a simple stroke of his pen. Labor will keep pressuring him to do so.
Arts and entertainment
With theatres and cinemas forced to close their doors, the arts and entertainment industry has been devastated by COVID-19. Unfortunately, the JobKeeper scheme provides little assistance to help the sector through the crisis.
In Parliament, Labor moved an amendment to include more arts and entertainment workers in the wage subsidy scheme, and we also called on the Government to implement a specific relief package for the sector. The Government voted against all of Labor’s amendments.
Although the $27 million package announced will help some in the arts, it goes nowhere near far enough. Much more will have to be done to support Australia’s artists and the organisations that employ them. We can’t rely on their story telling to get us through the lockdown, while abandoning them economically.
University education is one of Australia’s biggest industries, and one of the biggest employers too. Universities support around 260,000 jobs, including over 14,000 jobs in regional areas.
University are struggling to cope financially with the lockdown and international travel restrictions. If the federal government fails to deliver more help, universities have said 21,000 jobs will go in the next six months alone.
It would be a disaster for the Prime Minister to abandon universities. The resulting job losses would be devastating for both our tertiary education sector and the country at large.
The Government is still refusing to make universities properly eligible for JobKeeper. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to exclude university staff from wage subsidies. Again, the Treasurer could fix this with the stroke of a pen.
Labor has lobbied hard for the expansion of appropriate Government support to more temporary migrant groups during this health crisis. If someone living and working in Australia needs support, they should be able to access it.
The Government has listened to some of Labor’s calls – and now many New Zealanders living in Australia are eligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidy.
Thanks to Labor’s work in the Parliament, the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston, can now provide temporary visa holders with access to JobKeeper, JobSeeker, or another appropriate social security payments.
On the 19h of March, Labor called for a temporary moratorium on evictions. On the 29th of March, the National Cabinet decided to adopt this policy, announcing measures to halt evictions for 6 months for tenants in financial distress as a result of the Covid-19.
Labor welcomed this announcement. As we’ve consistently said, no one should lose their home because of the virus, regardless if they own or rent it.
It is important to know that Labor is not recommending tenants stop paying rent. It is our view that tenants and landlords need to work together during this health crisis.
Landlords and homeowners who rely on rent to pay bills and mortgages are also protected. The banks have already helped here, so have the building societies with mortgage deferrals. But governments need to help as well.