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Thursday, 14 May 2020
Page: 2489


Senator STOKER (Queensland) (15:10): If there is one thing Senator Gallagher and I agree on, it is that the economic recovery from this health crisis is very important. There is no doubt that the Australian economy and the many Australians who, as a group, make up that economy have taken a big hit as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. But it's important to note that we approach this crisis from a position of strength. While those on the other side demanded late last year that this government abandon financial responsibility and start handing out wads of cash, we held fire knowing it's important to have some money in the tin for a rainy day, something up your sleeve for when times get tough.

And 2020 has provided a number of those tough times. No doubt, there are many Australians feeling that pinch acutely. That's why the government has taken decisive action to address the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The JobKeeper payment, a $1,500 a fortnight payment worth $130 billion to the Australian taxpayer, has been brought in to tackle this significant economic impact. It works by keeping Australians tied to their workplaces during this difficult time. It's had enormous take-up. That tells us something about the nature of the economic impact of coronavirus but it also tells us something about the nature of Australian businesses—their desire to do the right thing by their staff, their desire to keep them on and ready to take up the mantle again once we get through this difficult time. There has been record take-up.

But, since then, we have seen so many examples of how this payment is working to help in my home state of Queensland. Sam O'Connor, the member for Bonney, knows just how well the JobKeeper payment can favour business. Recently he met with Toula from the FRIGG Cafe, which has two cafes—in Brisbane and in Labrador on the Gold Coast. Toula says there is no way her business would have survived without JobKeeper assistance because during the period of restrictions business has been down 80 per cent. Sam visited on the Saturday before Mother's Day to put some hampers together and saw firsthand the benefits of JobKeeper: Toula's six vital staff members, who make tasty burgers, pancakes and schnitzels every breakfast and lunchtime, still have jobs.

In the electorate of Forde, we have the wonderful example of Packer Leather, a fifth-generation family-run Australian manufacturing business. They are delighted to be able to report to their outstanding local member, Bert van Manen, that the JobKeeper payment has allowed them to keep their 100 local staff members on the books. They were established in 1891. They have survived the Spanish flu; two world wars; the Great Depression; the rise of plastics and foreign competition; offshore manufacturing; and a number of recessions—and now, with the help of the Morrison government, they are surviving this crisis as an international leader in the production of high-performance leathers. They are a great example of the Australian fighting spirit and the sorts of businesses that JobKeeper, through the help of the Morrison government and the Australian taxpayer, is helping to keep going and keep people working through the recovery.

Ross Vasta, the member for Bonner, has spent time with the owner of the Manly Deck bar and restaurant, whose name is Sudhir. He explained that, without the JobKeeper payment, he wouldn't have been able to continue his daily operations. Laura Gerber, the fantastic new member for Currumbin, has noticed that the business of Rainbow Meats in Currumbin Waters, owned by Peter, has lost an enormous amount of trade—80 per cent of total revenue. Peter said that the JobKeeper program is the only thing keeping their doors open right now; it simply wouldn't be possible without that program helping to subsidise staff wages through this hard time.

Ray Stevens, the member for Mermaid Beach, met Lincoln Testa, the owner of Madisons Cafe in the Oasis Shopping Centre at Broadbeach, a cafe I'm very fond of. Lincoln said very flatly that his business would not have survived without the JobKeeper payment. That means he wouldn't have been able to keep as many staff on during this time. I could keep going with example after example of the businesses that are surviving this hard time because of the measures put in place by this government, and I could tell you story after story of workers who are hanging on because of the assistance they're getting through the JobKeeper payment or, even in a worst-case scenario— (Time expired)