JobKeeper and JobSeeker

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (10:55): I am so relieved to be back here in the parliament, the Morrison government having relented and allowed parliament to sit before its planned sitting schedule of August in order to allow us to do our work and convey the messages and the urgency of our constituents here to the federal parliament. It is not good enough that the NRL can be back at work in a couple of weeks but we're not expected to return to Canberra until August. Our constituents deserve better. They expect better of their elected representatives and Labor will do everything it can this week to ensure sittings resume and the good business of parliament continues as soon as possible. Before I go on, I'd like to give a shout-out to all of the essential workers of Lilley, who have served us so well during COVID-19. We didn't expect 2020 to look like this, but they have risen to the occasion. Thousands of health workers have served those who are patients with COVID-19, those who are families of patients with COVID-19 and those trying to get by and conduct their business safely. We have thousands of retail workers who have risen to unexpected challenges in 2020. They deserve good pay, they deserve our appreciation, they deserve safe conditions at work and they deserve our support and thanks.

Speaking of support for Australians, I want to convey some of the messaging that my constituents have been raising with me in the past few weeks about the problems with the JobKeeper and JobSeeker packages. To give credit where it's due, these things were good initiatives. It was a good idea to raise the rate of JobSeeker payment to above the poverty line. It was a good idea to bring the JobKeeper package in to support people continuing a relationship with their employer, throughout COVID-19. But we also have to be humble and acknowledge where these things aren't working as they should, where there are cracks opening and where people are falling through the gaps. Here in the parliament this week we should be fixing up those gaps so that everybody is supported in the weeks and months to come.

With respect to JobSeeker, people have been talking about issues with Centrelink, issues with communication, and issues with people not being aware that their partner's income will affect their ability to access JobSeeker. This is the result of seven years of cuts to the Centrelink system. It has been hollowed out and there aren't enough people and resources there to support Australians in this time of need. With respect to JobKeeper and the JobKeeper package, as I said, it's a good thing, but too many people have been left out in the cold by this: 1.1 million casuals still have no support from JobKeeper and, at the moment, no indication from the Treasurer that that is likely to get any better. It's not good enough. Our casuals deserve better. Many are casuals not by choice but by the circumstances in which they find themselves, and they shouldn't be punished for that. With respect to JobKeeper, we are now starting to hear reports of scams, where people aren't
doing the right thing. Obviously, Australians are acting in good faith and most people are doing the right thing, but we need to step up and protect Australians when that is not the case. They have acted in good faith and they expect their elected representatives to act in good faith, to step up and fix those problems while we have the chance here in parliament this week.