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Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Page: 3694

Mr HOGAN (PageAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (15:33): Thank you for the call, Deputy Speaker.

An opposition member interjecting

Mr HOGAN: I take the compliment from across the chamber: 'They've brought out the big guns for this one'!

In a person's life, and indeed in the nation's history and the globe's history, there are defining moments, and I think what's happened this year—which was obviously not foreseen by anybody for our own personal lives, for this nation's life or for the globe's life—is a defining moment for all of us. What often characterises defining moments is that they are unforeseen. Just last year, in my region, we had things that were proving to be very difficult. We had a one-in-100-years drought. We had fires. We thought that was tough. Little did we know that not only our region, not only our state, not only our nation but indeed the world was going to be facing the threat of this virus. Not only are the health consequences of the virus significant; we have also seen—and we knew it would happen—the economic costs, the economic consequences, and the threat that they pose to everyone as well. There was a lot of anxiety. I think we'll all remember this year vividly, as time goes on—the events that led to us not shutting down completely but as businesses had to shut down, as people couldn't go to work—what those few weeks were when there was a lot up in the air about how far we would have to go to fight this economic crisis.

I want to go back and acknowledge the Prime Minister. I want to acknowledge the national cabinet. I want to acknowledge a lot of people. There was a lot of pressure, you might remember, Deputy Speaker, early on with this, as countries went through the different life cycles of the virus, for us to go with a full lockdown. There was a lot of pressure from the media, a lot of pressure from different sectors of the country, that we needed to lock down and we needed to lock down big time.

One of the most important things the Prime Minister said through all this was that every job was essential and that, yes, we needed to lock down or shut down certain things but we wanted to do that to a bare minimum. First, we wanted to get the health outcomes. It was all about flattening the curve. We wanted to get the health outcomes but we wanted to do the least amount of damage we could to our economy. The Prime Minister has put that message about health being No. 1 but also that we need to manage this economic crisis.

I want to acknowledge the health ministers. I thank the health ministers across all the states. The national cabinet was a wonderful initiative that, again, the Prime Minister initiated so that all the states could be on board and on the same page as best we can in a federation. A lot of great work was done there. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned a lot of people as well. It's become very apparent, the people who are very important to the wellbeing and welfare of our country. They are people like our front-line health workers, that he mentioned, truck drivers, people who work at supermarkets, anyone involved in supply chains of getting essential goods and services to every man, woman and child across this country. While there was great stress on some of those supply chains, I think as a country we have stood up and done very well under that—because of who Australians are.

I want to thank Australians, again, on the health front. We saw situations in other countries, with the health crisis, where it got out of control. We didn't get to that level. Sure, we as governments and state premiers and others certainly set some of the parameters and goalposts around this, but we didn't hit those levels—because of Australians. I think we 'got it' as a nation, the health threat, that we really needed to change what we did. This happened the day we saw everyone on Bondi Beach. I think we all went, 'Actually, that's not okay.' With what we're facing, the real threats, including to our health, that is not okay. I felt it in my community the next day: the social distancing and the hygiene. We just got it. That changed it. When we as a nation, as Australians, got that, that changed the outcome for us and I want to thank everyone who has helped with that.

The Prime Minister spoke very early on, when the debate was happening, of how much or how little we lock down to get the health results and flatten the curve to where we want it, and he was very aware of the economic cost of doing that. There has been significant economic destruction. We have seen jobs lost. The numbers have been well documented, and we have seen assets devalued. We have seen a lot of that happen not just here but across the globe. This is scary—probably not the word I should use—stuff.

This isn't just isolated to Australia. We are seeing the globe under much stress; we are seeing many countries under much stress. If you look at economic contractions of any significant size throughout history, what it usually means is you're going into a less safe world. This is a critical time. As the Prime Minister said, the decisions that we and many countries around the globe make right now over the next three, four and five years will be significant in how we cohabit, trade and relate with each other as a community over the next 30 years.

Not only have we as a country done exceptionally well on the health front, we have done as well as we can—and we've done some great things—on the economic front to try and minimise the impact of this economically. Obviously, not everything is the same as it was. Certainly there are people who are much more economically distressed than they were. But I speak to many people across my community who are very thankful for the increase to the jobseeker payment, for the work we have done with JobKeeper and for a lot of the industry packages that we've announced over the last few months. I want to read a list—it is good to remind us about how much has happened.

If we go back to 21 January, we noted that the human coronavirus had pandemic potential. That is when it first started to come across our radar—in January. Our announcement of the pandemic potential in January was well ahead of the World Health Organization. We were on the front foot very early, which is another reason why the health consequences here haven't been as bad as in other countries. On 27 February we activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus. On 5 March we established the National Coordination Mechanism.

On 11 March we announced a $2.4 billion health package that included support for vulnerable groups, primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and a national medical stockpile. We committed to funding over 50 per cent of additional hospital costs incurred by states and territories related to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with or suspected of having coronavirus. On 12 March, the day after, we announced a $17.6 billion economic response to the coronavirus, including cash flow boosts for employers, $750 stimulus payments and assistance for severely affected regions. The next day we established the national cabinet—unprecedented—and it has been a great asset to our management of this situation. On 17 March, nearly a week later, the national cabinet agreed to restrictions on gatherings and measures for the protection of those in aged care and other older Australians, and Australians travelling abroad were encouraged to return home.

On 22 March, the week after that, we announced the next stimulus package—$66.1 billion, including income support for individuals through the supplement and expanding the cash flow boosts to businesses. The week after that we announced $669 million to expand Medicare subsidised telehealth services, domestic violence support, mental health support and a community support package. On 30 March we announced the JobKeeper payment. On 2 April we announced a $1.6 billion package for early childhood education. On 12 April we announced the higher education relief package, providing funding for short courses, $18 billion for domestic students and $100 million in regulatory relief. On 16 April we announced up to $165 million in support for domestic airlines. On 29 April we announced $205 million in payments to keep senior Australians in residential care safe, and we announced another aged-care funding supplement.

On 8 May we started to talk about a road map to reopening, because we were feeling that the health issue was at least starting to be contained. On 12 May the Treasurer delivered his ministerial statement on the economy. On 4 June we announced the HomeBuilder scheme.

As can be seen from that very brief road map, we have come a long way. We have a lot to be proud of and we have a lot to be thankful to our fellow Australians for, for the way they have adhered to the health advice to make sure that we flattened the curve—and so far so good. Touch wood, we will be able to manage any outbreak from here. We still have a lot of work to do, and as a government we will do everything we can to make sure every job is restored.