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Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Page: 3113


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (15:33): Can I extend our sincere apologies to the minister, who claims that he has not yet received enough praise from the Labor opposition—our sincere apologies! Can I say to the minister that, when praise has been deserving, it's been given. But, with a million Australians out of work and thousands of businesses closing their doors, with Australians not knowing whether they're going to have a job at the end of the year, what this country needs is not a cheer squad. It needs a parliament, it needs an opposition, it needs a plan for the future, and it has none of this.

What this country needs is competent administration. It requires an open and transparent government and a vision for the future, but, instead of competent administration, too often we find a good idea poorly implemented—I refer, of course, to the JobKeeper arrangement—or we find ourselves with a bad idea put in centre place for a national recovery project. I refer, of course, to the superannuation early access scheme. Instead of an open and transparent government, we have a Prime Minister who closes down parliament. Why is he hiding? Instead of a vision for the future, what we find is the same old ideas like yesterday's dinner reheated in the microwave of policy—competent administration, competent implementation.

We sat there with genuine excitement when the Prime Minister promised Australians they were going to receive free child care, only to have that excitement replaced by disappointment when we discovered that, instead of free child care, we were going to have thousands of childcare centres have their income cut. Thousands of Australians, at a time when a million Australians are out of work, are trying to get back to the workplace, but they can't do it because they can't get their kids into a childcare centre. This is a cruel hoax. This isn't free child care. This is a free ride for the Prime Minister.

The JobKeeper scheme is a genuinely good idea, and one we suggested to the government, but, sadly, some jobs apparently are not worth keeping. If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who were working in serial casual employment with multiple employers—perhaps you're in the entertainment and arts industry, perhaps in the hospitality industry—then clearly to this government your job is not worth keeping. You're a seeker not a keeper. We think those Australians deserve more than this.

The only thing worse than ignoring a vast number of Australians is to say, 'We've actually got worse plans for you in the future.' I ask you to consider the situation of those thousands and thousands of young Australians—the women, the workers in the service industries—who have been in the front row of those industries that have been shut down.

The government say that in the future they want to see more flexibility in our labour market. We have never seen more flexibility in our labour market! It has been the women and the young people who have been the bumper bar as this economy grinds to a halt, and what does this government say they have to look forward to? Cuts to penalty rates, cuts to overtime arrangements, and changes to their annual leave and superannuation arrangements. That's what these workers have got to look forward to. At a time when the Prime Minister says, 'We need to give Australians more confidence to get back to work and to be more entrepreneurial,' he's saying to hundreds of thousands of Australians, 'Be confident, but you can't be confident in the amount of money you're going to take home next year, because we've got industrial relations changes in front of you.'

What this country needs at the moment is not a cheer squad but a plan for the future. It needs competent administration and it needs parliament to be open so that we can put the spotlight on the failures of this government. Yes, we'll praise it when it gets it right, but our job is to ensure that the Australian people get the government and the parliament they deserve. (Time expired)